Wednesday 21 October 2015
[Sir Roger Gale in the Chair]
Rail Services: Portsmouth and the South-West
I beg to move,
That this House has considered rail services to Portsmouth and the South West.
It is such a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Roger.
We constantly hear about the northern powerhouse, but we hear little about the southern powerhouse. We hear how the Government are putting money into cities, businesses and infrastructure in the north, but where is the investment in the south? The south is an area of 3.6 million people that contributes 15% of the UK’s output, but when will we start hearing about investment in the southern powerhouse?
I represent Portsmouth, which is often referred to as a northern city in the south because of its background in heavy engineering, building and maintaining our Royal Navy. The immediate post-war decades took a heavy toll on our traditional industrial base, but the city has been transforming itself over the past 20 years—the Royal Navy is more technically advanced than ever before, we have diversified beyond defence and we have a brilliant entrepreneurial community, as well as new cutting-edge technological companies. However, we still have to fight hard for investment. Portsmouth suffers from the assumption in some quarters that all parts of the south and the south-east are prosperous and well provided with infrastructure. In fact, I represent a city with neighbourhoods that are among the very poorest in the country.
I secured this debate because of the poor rail service in Portsmouth, but anything that helps Portsmouth will help other cities on the Solent, the Isle of Wight, Hampshire, further west and points between that area and London. The train service from London to Portsmouth Harbour takes as long as it did in Victorian times: one hour and 40 minutes to travel just 70 miles. It is quicker for me to drive door-to-door to Westminster than it is for me to take the train. Compare that with Manchester, which is 217 miles from London and takes just a little over two hours on the train, as we all found out when we went to the Conservative party conference. Birmingham takes 85 minutes for a 125-mile journey, and it will take just 50 minutes when High Speed 2 has been completed.
The train between Portsmouth and Southampton, a journey of 20 miles, takes 65 minutes. Compare that with Nottingham to Derby, a journey of 15 miles, which takes just 23 minutes. Newcastle to Sunderland, 17 miles, takes just 18 minutes. The Solent local enterprise partnership, our local authorities and businesses do great work in trying to maximise the potential of the area around Portsmouth and Southampton, which is one of the most widely spread conurbations in the country, but the Solent has been left behind and will continue to be so unless we introduce new rail infrastructure.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for securing this debate. As she says, this issue affects not only Hampshire and Portsmouth but our stations in Dorset. From London, it takes two hours and eight minutes to get to Poole, and two hours and 21 minutes to get to Wareham—the Minister has seen that station. Increased capacity and speeds would help to encourage people to use the railway, rather than the roads, thereby reducing congestion on roads such as the A351 in my constituency.
My hon. Friend is right. As I continue, I hope that he will see some solutions. I am pleased that other places are behind me on this subject, because we must work together to show the Government why this is so important.
We often hear the area spoken of as the M27 corridor, but we need more than a motorway to make it a successful and competitive place to live and work in the 21st century. We need a sustainable transport policy that includes public transport and support for cycling provision, as well as making space for more cars. Other Members from along the route will highlight other areas affected by this debate, so I will concentrate on the Solent region, particularly Portsmouth.
Why are rail services important? The Chancellor is keen to increase productivity across the country, as he says in “Fixing the Foundations: Creating a more prosperous nation,” published in July 2015. He acknowledges that improving infrastructure is one of the many steps that he can take to improve the economy’s productivity. The Solent local enterprise partnership extends from Havant in the east to Southampton in the west and includes Winchester, Eastleigh and Fareham. Local productivity in the area, as measured by output per job, lags behind the south-east average by 15%. Portsmouth has some of the country’s most deprived areas, with wages falling well below those of other cities in the south-east. We must improve connectivity if we are to improve productivity.
By improving the train service, we would help employers by providing a wider choice of potential employees and, conversely, we would help employees have a greater choice of potential employers. We would help businesses broaden their markets and their supplier base. We would provide greater access to social infrastructure such as universities and city centres. All of that would increase the region’s productivity and help to improve the UK’s overall productivity.
Congestion on the main motorway connecting the area, the M27, is legendary. It can take anything from 30 minutes to two hours to travel by road between Portsmouth and Southampton. Traffic into Fareham and Gosport moves very slowly during rush hour. Some £250 million-worth of investment is going into upgrading the M27 to smart motorway status. Data from the Department for Transport tell us that traffic in one direction on the M27 between junctions 8 and 9 has increased from 99,000 vehicles a day to more than 112,000 vehicles a day. Even with improvements, the road will always struggle to cope.
The Atkins study “Economic Costs of Congestion in the Regions” states that congestion in the Hampshire region costs £400 million per annum and a further £100 million for Portsmouth and another £100 million for Southampton. That is eroding our productivity potential, and, if not addressed, will equal a loss in gross value added of 1.3% by 2025. The south Hampshire strategy document shows that total road trips are expected to increase by 11% in the period 2010 to 2026, which will increase time spent in queues by 53%. Business costs will increase, including the direct costs of drive time and fuel, but there will also be the indirect costs of logistics scheduling and general competitiveness and other costs such as increased pollution.
If there is no worsening of congestion within the Solent LEP area, we expect that the number of jobs will climb by 44,000 from 435,000 in 2006 to nearly 480,000 in 2026. If there is no infrastructure investment, we expect an increase of just 36,000 new jobs, a loss of 8,000 jobs. Figures from the last census show a flow of workers into Portsmouth of more than 40,000 a day, with 20,000 people leaving the city to work elsewhere. More jobs have been created since then, and the labour market figures every month show that the number of jobs is going up and up.
We need sustainable transport solutions to cater for those workers, but we need to ensure that we create the conditions that foster more high-skill, high-pay jobs, which requires investment. We have to build 75,000 houses in the Solent region over the next 10 years, so the congestion and infrastructure problems will just get worse. If we improve the rail service, we will be able to take traffic off the roads. We can improve the rail service by improving the speed and frequency of the service.
I believe there is a solution that will help not only Portsmouth and Southampton but the south-west towards Weymouth, as my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Dorset and North Poole (Michael Tomlinson) has mentioned, by helping to alleviate the crowding on trains on all lines going from the area to London Waterloo. There are three routes from Portsmouth to London, but I will focus on just two of those routes, both operated by South West Trains at present. One route goes via Havant, Haslemere, Petersfield and Guildford to Woking and Waterloo, and the other goes via Eastleigh, Winchester and Basingstoke to Woking and Waterloo. Both routes suffer from overcrowding and capacity constraints. The rail system is unable to cope with existing demand.
Network Rail published the excellent “Wessex Route Study” in August 2015, and it describes the problem and proposes solutions. The report says that the system is experiencing demand that is 20% greater than it can cope with and that, within the planning period, the demand is expected to grow still further by another 20%. Network Rail’s solution is summarised as follows: junction improvements and platform capacity at Basingstoke; and, again, junction improvements and platform capacity at Woking. Those two projects will cost £175 million each.
I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing this debate. I hope that the Minister has noted the A-team turnout from Hampshire MPs. It takes a lot to get this many Hampshire MPs in one room, so I congratulate my hon. Friend on doing that.
In the previous Parliament, nearly £4 million was spent in my constituency on an improvement scheme at the railway station, which included parking, a new footbridge and improved wi-fi facilities and staffing of the station. Those were all fantastic, but they were icing on the cake. Does my hon. Friend agree that we need to turn our attention to the cake itself? Ultimately, it is about building a bigger railway. We can put on more trains and deal with the three-plus-two seating issue, but unless we build a bigger railway and deal with Clapham Junction and London Waterloo, the problems back down the line for us will never change.
I thank my hon. Friend for that very good intervention. I completely agree with him, and was about to come on to that point.
We need a new line between Surbiton and Clapham Junction to relieve capacity, and we strongly support the development of Crossrail 2. Those measures will help Portsmouth by cutting 10 minutes from the journey during peak times, as the train would not have to take the slow route avoiding Woking. However, it will still take about 90 minutes, the same time as it takes during off-peak times. The Wessex route study also proposes building an overtaking loop along the Havant to Guildford line that would enable faster services to overtake the slow services. If that was implemented, Portsmouth would be well on the way to having the same sort of services it had in the 1970s, when it was possible to get from Portsmouth to London in 75 minutes by train.
However, that is not all. That solution does not address the problem of connectivity within the Hampshire and Solent area. It is almost as fast to get from Portsmouth to Gatwick airport as it is to get from Portsmouth to Southampton airport, even though Gatwick is nearly five times the distance. To address the problem, all we need is the building of a chord at Eastleigh, or increasing the junction’s capacity to enable a train from Portsmouth to head south as well as north at the junction. That would enable a direct service from Portsmouth to Southampton airport and Southampton and save a lot of time.
The existing route to Eastleigh is made up of a number of single-track sections. Those have to be made into double-track sections, which together with upgraded signalling would enable service frequency to be improved, which would help to attract passengers. Network Rail estimated in its route utilisation strategy that that would cost £135 million. The improvements would not only help Portsmouth connect with its neighbours, but enormously improve the journey for passengers getting from Brighton to Bournemouth and Weymouth, and from Weymouth to Basingstoke, Winchester and London.
When high-voltage electrification of the main line takes place, train speed can increase and we can start getting the same level of service that the rest of the country enjoys. Overhead electrification in the region, as already partly allowed for in the electric spine proposals, would make a big difference to train speed, and I would like that included in any proposal. It would make technical sense. Modern rolling stock uses alternating current motors. Converting high-voltage AC from the national grid down to 750 V DC for the third rail and then converting it back to AC on the train to power it makes no sense at all. We already know that the South West Trains Desiro fleet is unable to operate on some parts of our lines at high speed because there is not the power capacity in the trackside equipment to permit it. High-voltage overhead electrification overcomes those problems.
Those measures would help improve productivity throughout the region. They would certainly help transform the economy in Portsmouth. In the “Rail Value for Money Study”, Sir Roy McNulty said that we should make best use of existing railways before considering new investment. The cost of the improvements as outlined is extremely small compared with that of new rail projects, such as High Speed 2 or Crossrail 2. There have been practically no major infrastructure rail projects on the line since 1967. The line from Portsmouth to Southampton was electrified only in 1989. In 2007, there was an expensive package of signal and power upgrades on the Portsmouth direct line. Not only did those works overrun, drawing a large fine for Network Rail, but we still have constant signal and power failures right from the point that the supposed upgrade was installed. That causes massive inconvenience for a large number of our constituents and damages our economic prospects.
Passenger satisfaction on routes from Portsmouth to London is among the lowest in the country. The latest national rail passenger survey shows that just 60% of passengers on the route think there is sufficient room. I am surprised it is that high, given the three-plus-two seating of the suburban stock on which my long-distance travelling constituents have to sit on their way to London. I am sure that some of my colleagues will talk about that. We now have no proper long-distance stock on peak services on the direct route from Portsmouth to London. Portsmouth passengers give a huge thumbs-down to the value for money of their ticket, with just 31% feeling satisfied.
Most of what I have covered is not new. It has been analysed, but nothing has been done. The measures would make journeys faster and have a major effect, taking people off the roads and making it easier to move around the whole area. The growth in passenger numbers on the Manchester to London line has increased by having services every 20 minutes. Increasing the number of trains an hour would be expected to help increase the numbers of passengers who travel by train in our area. The impact of faster trains on the economy along the Solent region, including a fast train from the south-west region and from Portsmouth to London, would be a massive boost to the southern powerhouse.
We must also remember our friends across the Solent. I am delighted that my hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Wight (Mr Turner) is here. I know he will have a lot to say. There are commuters who travel from the Isle of Wight to London every day. The Isle of Wight is a vital part of the regional economy. Its trade passes through Portsmouth with Wightlink and Hovertravel, and through Southampton with Red Funnel. I am delighted that a new operator, Scoot, is coming on to the Portsmouth to Cowes route. Improving rail links to the ports will help the Isle of Wight develop as a place to visit and to do business, and it will help the ports, too.
The Chancellor, while looking at the opportunities that could make up the northern powerhouse, must not forget the goose that lays the golden eggs in the south. The south requires only incremental amounts of investment to continue increasing production.
Portsmouth would be transformed by having a fast train service to London and along the Solent region. Any investment in our infrastructure will have an immediate impact on the local area, not forgetting that South West Trains already contributes £374 million per annum to the Exchequer, which could be reinvested to make that investment happen. I know that other Members will be talking about the quality of trains and the impact on their areas, but I hope that this debate will put down a marker to ensure that our rail infrastructure is upgraded to the same level as the rest of the country.
I echo the sentiments of my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth South (Mrs Drummond) in saying that it is a pleasure to speak under your chairmanship, Sir Roger. I begin by congratulating my hon. Friend on securing this debate, and I thank her for doing so at a timely moment in the region’s growth.
I am here to speak on behalf of my constituents in Havant where, because of a growing population, a strong economy and rising visitor numbers, we are looking for quicker, longer and better trains, as my hon. Friend the Member for North East Hampshire (Mr Jayawardena) has so often said. We are also looking for improved local and regional infrastructure. Many of my constituents travel locally in the Solent region, including to the constituencies of my hon. Friends the Members for Gosport (Caroline Dinenage) and for Portsmouth North (Penny Mordaunt), both of whom are here and are passionate advocates for their constituencies. Many of our constituents travel to other constituencies for work and leisure, and it is important that they have that opportunity in the future.
I congratulate the Government on securing a railway network that is at its busiest since the 1920s and is one of the safest in Europe. In my constituency, we have experienced that growth, which is evident at Havant’s three stations: Havant, Bedhampton and in the coastal village of Emsworth. All three stations are served by two train operating companies—Southern and South West Trains—and we are pleased to have them as part of our local infrastructure.
At the beginning of my remarks, I said that we are experiencing a growing population, a strong economy and rising visitor numbers, and I want to take a moment to elaborate briefly on those factors. I hope that that will send a strong message to our train operating companies that we want them to invest in our railways, both in my constituency and across the Solent and Wessex line regions.
At peak time during the day, 19,000 passengers use the line that serves my constituency and the constituencies of other Members in the Chamber. South West Trains operates one of the busiest lines—if not the busiest—in the country. It is also one of the most profitable. Along with my hon. Friends, I am looking for sustained investment in an important and profitable area for that train operating company.
Havant itself has a rising population. We were the first local authority in Hampshire to settle and finalise our local plan and we have some exciting developments in place, including Cooper’s Grange in Havant town that caters for young professionals and families, and Redlands Grange in the coastal village of Emsworth, which will provide new housing for many families coming into the area or others coming from the south coast. We have a growing population, because Havant is a popular area for elderly people to retire to, for young professionals seeking to build their careers and also for families looking to settle down.
We also have a large commuter population who commute along the south coast to the constituencies of many hon. Members in this Chamber, as well as to London. Many of my constituents live and work locally, but many live locally and work in the City, the west end and Canary Wharf, and I am determined that they should get a good deal as well.
Alongside the rising population in Havant, we have a strong and growing economy. Havant is blessed to be a regional centre and leader for the defence and aerospace industry. We have Lockheed Martin and several defence contractors in the constituency. It is also a regional leader for light industry and manufacturing across a whole range of sectors. All those businesses need to be able to attract high quality staff and to ensure that supplies can get to them along the railway.
Havant is also a centre for regional regeneration. Market Parade, the gateway to Havant town, is being regenerated. Dunsbury Hill Farm is being regenerated in partnership with the Solent local enterprise partnership, which should create around 3,500 new jobs. All those people coming to work in Havant require a strong and effective railway network and good local infrastructure.
Finally, Havant is a popular resort and destination for visitors from the south coast, from across the country and from around the world. The coastal village of Emsworth plays host to an award-winning food festival. Hayling Island hosts a range of watersports festivals, such as the national watersports festival and the Virgin kitesurfing armada, where last week they attempted the world record for the largest number of kitesurfers. They were trying to beat their own record. My Havant constituency therefore boasts a number of very attractive resorts, both in Hayling and in Emsworth. It has a rising population and a strong and growing economy. All those factors mean that we are on the lookout for improved infrastructure and a stronger rail network. I hope that the new franchise opportunity in 2017 will be a good chance for the train operating companies to make sure that they meet demand in a very profitable area for the infrastructure that we need. I know that other hon. Members here have similar stories to tell.
I hope that the new all-party parliamentary group on Hampshire, which my hon. Friend the Member for North East Hampshire has taken a lead in setting up, and in which many colleagues in this Chamber will participate, will play an important role in helping to secure improved infrastructure for the area, working together with Ministers, the Government and the train operating companies.
Once again, I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth South for securing this important debate and for reiterating on behalf of my constituents in Havant the need for stronger local and regional infrastructure and for an improved railway network to secure our future.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Roger. I, too, congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth South (Mrs Drummond) on securing this debate. The issue is important for my constituents as well as hers, but perhaps for different reasons. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Havant (Mr Mak) for setting out what I will now say: we need quicker, longer and better trains on the south-western route. I will briefly outline why I think that will benefit the residents of not only my constituency, but beyond.
In terms of quicker services, it has already been outlined that there is a major capacity issue between Clapham Junction and Waterloo, and also between Woking and Waterloo. As my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester (Steve Brine) pointed out, the investment required is important and we must not lose sight of that. I would argue that there are quick fixes that would deliver some improvements now.
We need to consider the planning for Crossrail 2 and how we can reduce the frequency of trains stopping at so many different stations, because dwell time at stations and braking and acceleration times are a major problem on the network, particularly between Woking and Waterloo where there are many stations, and it is important that some of the longer-distance trains do not stop at those stations in future. That would benefit everyone. It would speed up traffic on the railways and ensure that all trains—suburban or long distance—were more reliable. That would benefit us all here this morning. Crossrail 2 is a major project for the long term that we must consider. I firmly support it because if we provide additional capacity through Crossrail 2, it would free up capacity on existing railway lines for the residents of the constituencies served by longer-distance services, so I urge the Department for Transport to take that up.
On longer trains, it is good to see some of the investment that has gone in. We must remember that the old Network SouthEast—and the old services that existed under British Rail—had huge underinvestment. Although services today are not perfect, it is important that we remember how they once were and that a multi-billion-pound investment has gone into the railways, not only into rolling stock but into stations. We now need investment in longer platforms to allow for longer trains in the years ahead, not only on the mainline but on some of the branch lines that connect to the Waterloo services at Basingstoke or elsewhere. For example, the line that connects the London and south-western route with Reading is a key route linking to Crossrail 1, so that important point must not be lost sight of. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth South will agree that it is right that we consider the branch lines that connect so many communities to London.
Further, it is important to consider longer trains. It is absolutely bizarre to see train services at peak times that are four or eight carriages long. The rail operators under the new franchise must be encouraged to ensure that we have 12 or even 15-carriage trains, using the longer platforms initiative, and they must ensure that more of the 444 class of trains are available in the years ahead. Those trains should be promoted and the infrastructure from Network Rail provided to enable that to happen.
I talked about better trains: potentially the quickest fix of all. It is good to see the investment to introduce wi-fi on some services. That is very welcome, but we must do much better. It is not good enough yet, partly because of the mobile signals available trackside. Those should be improved, and I know that Network Rail was looking at that issue, but I am told that it is not looking at it any more. I hope that it will again. We need to ensure that wi-fi is available on all train services. It is currently available only on certain trains, but certainly not on the majority that run through my constituency. That situation should change.
Also, we must ensure that more station improvements are made so that the customer experience is better. I welcome the investment that has been put into Fleet railway station to increase the amount of car parking. That is very important and ensures that more people get out of their cars and on to the trains, but there is still work to do. That process has not been perfect. I hope that Network Rail will learn lessons from it, but it is an important investment. I suggest we go further.
I have previously talked about the need to invest in footbridges that connect communities divided by railway lines. At Bramley in my constituency there is a need for a footbridge, particularly since railways are the victims of their own success. Level crossings are down more than ever because there is more traffic than ever. That is a good thing, but we must ensure that communities are not left behind.
Lastly, on better trains—I referenced this in terms of 444s a moment ago—as my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth North (Penny Mordaunt) has said, the three-and-two seating on trains is not suitable for passengers on long-distance services. The reality is that the third seat is rarely used, which is not a good use of space on those services.
Will my hon. Friend join me in paying tribute to our hon. Friend the hon. Member for Portsmouth North (Penny Mordaunt) for all her work in bringing this issue to the attention of the train operating companies and getting action and change so that our constituents can enjoy more comfortable and safer journeys?
I completely agree with my right hon. Friend. Our hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth North has done a very good job in raising the issue. I am looking forward to working with her and colleagues to ensure that we take this issue forward, because the solution is more two-and-two seating and more longer trains. We have not got there yet and there is more work to do, but I am sure that the Government are listening.
The reality is that none of the fixes can happen overnight. I recognise that the Department for Transport must balance many competing interests, but I urge the Department to hear the words of my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth North: that this bit of the railway network contributes more money to the Exchequer than any other part of the network. It has done that consistently, year after year. Indeed, the old Network SouthEast was the only bit of the network at that time that contributed to British Rail. It is important that, while improvements are made elsewhere to grow the economy of the United Kingdom as a whole, we do not let the south-east of England or the London and south-western route fall behind. We need quicker, longer, better trains and I hope that the Government will act in the years ahead.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Roger. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth South (Mrs Drummond) on securing this, her first Westminster Hall debate. She was fortunate in the ballot, but her constituents are also fortunate to have her representing them. I wish her a long and successful tenure in this House.
I would like to make a few points about the future of Island Line and then about connectivity to the Isle of Wight more generally. Under successive franchises, the physical assets of Island Line, which runs from Ryde Pier Head to Shanklin, have been left to decay disgracefully. The rolling stock—former underground trains—is now 70 or 80 years old and in such poor condition that guards can no longer pass safely between carriages to collect fares. The track is also in a very sorry state. The staff are hard-working and do their best in far from perfect circumstances. They deserve better and I will continue to work with others to make sure they get it.
Following the decision to end the South West Trains franchise in 2017, there has been much debate about the future of Island Line. Indeed, earlier this year, my hon. Friend the Minister kindly met a delegation from the island and subsequently arranged for senior officials to meet council representatives, for which I am grateful. Decisions must be made to find a long-term, sustainable future for the service and that is what the majority of Island Line passengers want, so I invite my hon. Friend to put it on the record again that she is committed to helping to find a long-term, sustainable and financially viable future for Island Line.
Last week, the council made the sensible decision to ask Christopher Garnett OBE to conduct an expert, thorough and independent review of opinions on Island Line’s future. I welcome his appointment and hope the Minister will join me in thanking him for taking up this challenge.
I want to make it crystal clear that I want to find the best way to retain a service from Shanklin to Ryde Pier Head. I hope the Minister will take this opportunity to recognise the importance of the Solent local enterprise partnership. I am looking forward to meeting the chief executive of the LEP, Anne-Marie Mountifield, with the leader of the council next month. One thing I want to discuss with her is how best Mr Garnett’s work can be put into context in considering the wider needs of the island. I am sure it would be helpful if the Government’s support for that objective was placed on the record today.
The Isle of Wight is a wonderful place to live, but we face unique challenges. Connectivity is key to unlocking the island’s economic potential. I urge the Minister to remind South West Trains that it must work with the ferry companies for the remainder of this franchise period to ensure that their services dovetail effectively. Indeed, that should be a key requirement in the new franchise specification so that a new operator is under no illusions about the importance of connectivity. This is a joint responsibility, but I have been told that in the past train timetables have been altered without enough notice for the ferry companies to react. There needs to be much closer planning of services, so that islanders and visitors do not needlessly have to wait for the next ferry.
It is particularly frustrating if passengers have just missed a ferry by moments, as sometimes happens to those who catch the 9.35 train from Waterloo to Southampton Central, which arrives at 10.47, giving only 13 minutes to make the connection to the Red Jet terminal. There is no bus service at that time, so they must take a taxi, but if the train is a few minutes late they miss the Red Jet, which would have got them to West Cowes just before 11.30. Instead they must wait until 11.55 for the car ferry, which will finally deliver them to East Cowes just before 1 o’clock. If they had planned to catch the Red Jet and left their car in West Cowes, they cannot get across the river until 5 o’clock in the morning.
That sort of thing must be considered. It is one of the details that must be seared into the minds of those responsible for planning the rail service that links through to the Isle of Wight. The service from Waterloo to the island via Portsmouth is no better, with the last connecting service to Shanklin leaving Waterloo at 7.30. My plea to the Minister is that the new franchise operator is tasked with helping to find a sustainable future for rail services on the island, and also required to work more closely with the ferry companies to deliver better connectivity across the Solent.
Finally, I turn to a related technical issue that is of great interest to the operators and which I ask the Minister consider. Hovertravel has pointed out that some Isle of Wight stations do not appear as a destination for some parts of the national rail network. The Association of Train Operating Companies must ensure that all Isle of Wight destinations are included in national reservation systems and journey planning. To that end, will the Minister please ask the chief executive of ATOC to arrange a meeting with Hovertravel, Wightlink and Red Funnel to explore this problem and to consider how best it can be addressed?
I know the Minister appreciates the importance of good connectivity and how it contributes to economic growth, and I know she will do all she can to help to ensure the Isle of Wight is not excluded from that.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Roger. I join other hon. Members in commending our hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth South (Mrs Drummond) for securing this important debate. I know that she is a tenacious campaigner in her constituency. I have seen at first hand how well she is respected by her local residents and we have heard today why that is: she has a tremendous grasp of this issue and all those facing Portsmouth, which is such an important part of our country. It is fantastic to see not only my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth South, but my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth North (Penny Mordaunt). The people of Portsmouth have a fantastic team representing them here.
An overwhelmingly powerful case has been made today for further investment in the rail line in our part of the country. The economic case is clear for all to see. My hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth South referred to the southern powerhouse and I agree with her. Basingstoke has the 10th largest employment base in the south-east, and we are adding to that with the development of Basing View, which is right in the centre of town, next door to the station, and will create almost 3,000 new jobs in the coming years. Basingstoke has had one of the highest levels of house building in the country for the past 15 years. When others were not building, Basingstoke was.
When considering rail capacity and the capacity of the transport system in Hampshire, my concern is that north Hampshire is playing catch-up. We did not get the necessary investment in our roads and railways under the previous Government. I hope that the Minister will ally with us and advocate more investment. The south western main line has seen almost no significant investment since the 1930s despite having some of the most important towns and cities in our country along its route: Basingstoke, Guildford, Portsmouth, Southampton—the list goes on. We need to ensure that we have the right transport in place for not only business, but our constituents. We have made some progress, which I am sure the Minister will detail in her summing-up. I pay tribute to her for the interest and support that she has shown us as a group of Members of Parliament over the past few months.
I welcome the investment that is being made, but, as I said, we are playing catch-up. Waterloo is one of the last unmodernised stations in London, despite it seeing almost 100 million passenger movements every single year, a number which has doubled since privatisation. Peak commuter trains out of Woking are running at 173% of capacity, which equates to 500 extra people on a train, making it almost impossible to describe it as a comfortable journey. It is little wonder that the national passenger survey reports that just one in three passengers in our area feel that they get value for money when travelling by train.
My hon. Friend the Member for North East Hampshire (Mr Jayawardena) discussed getting more trains into his constituency, which neighbours mine so we share the same problems. I agree that we need more, faster and longer trains that need to be delivered not only in the next control period, but as part of the refranchising. We need more trains because there are further developments in signalling not only in Basingstoke, but in Woking. We need longer trains, because we still see trains that are not full length, such as the one that I caught to get to this debate today that could have been two carriages longer.
We are also not seeing trains in shoulder periods at anything like their full length. I particularly want the Minister to respond to that point, because we should be pressing South West Trains right now to increase the length of shoulder period trains, so that those who try to do the right thing and travel off peak are not rewarded with hideous overcrowding. My right hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Anne Milton) asked me to make one or two remarks on her behalf on that point, because she, in her own inimitable style, wanted to ensure that people were made aware of the overcrowding experienced by her constituents on peak-time trains. She asked that such trains should carry the maximum number of carriages in order to avoid her having, as she says in her note to me,
“to occupy her favourite spot sitting on the floor by the loo”.
We regular commuters have all been there, because not only are no other seats available, but there is nowhere even to stand. Overcrowding on morning trains into London from Guildford starts at 5.50 am and continues until at least 9.45 am. The problems are chronic for my right hon. Friend’s constituents and I am happy to raise them on her behalf. I hope that the Minister can respond.
We have two clear opportunities here to get some change for our constituents and to ensure that they can see some light at the end of the tunnel—excuse the pun. The refranchising of South West Trains is coming up and we as a group of MPs will be working together to ensure that we get longer trains and that re-signalling work is brought forward so that more trains can be delivered for our constituents. There is also a much bigger opportunity, as referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester (Steve Brine), in the next control period—beyond the current control period 5—to get the economic message across to the Chancellor and the Treasury team. They need to understand that they must invest in the future of trains in our area so that we can continue to deliver the sort of economic growth that the country so badly needs. All the evidence shows that doing nothing is not an option.
My local enterprise partnership, enterprise M3, which does superb work and has already been incredibly successful in securing additional funding for local roads, has expressed concern about the lack of ambition in the plans set out in the Wessex route study. It also challenges what it describes as an excessive time period to improve an already chronically poor service.
I have two further points before I finish. Is the Minister content that the current Network Rail planning process for future capacity adequately takes into account the projections for house building in our area? While I certainly gained a clear impression that some growth in housing was being considered, I would like the Minister’s reassurance that the full scale of development is understood by Network Rail in its projections.
My final point builds on a comment made by my hon. Friend the Member for Havant (Mr Mak) about safety. Through questions that I have asked, I believe that there are no concerns regarding overcrowding on trains. The Office of Rail and Road deals with health and safety, but my concern is slightly different and is about accidents on the line. Will the Minister give us her thoughts on the work being done by rail operators and by Network Rail to ensure that we see fewer fatalities on the line? We have had a spate of fatalities on the line between Waterloo and my constituency that are tragic owing to the loss of life and the dreadful nature of such events. I want to be assured that train operators are doing everything that they can to minimise the issue and hopefully to remove it completely in the future.
I commend my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth South for securing this debate. I look forward to hearing the Minister’s response. This represents the continuation of an important debate for our constituents throughout the south-east, and I know from the Minister’s great work that we need to secure her undoubtedly important support.
I, too, congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth South (Mrs Drummond) on introducing this important debate.
I echo the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Dorset and North Poole (Michael Tomlinson) on how the issue not only affects Hampshire, but is a vital one for the west country as a whole, including my constituency. Furthermore, as I mentioned in last week’s broadband debate, my constituency is one of the least connected in the country. At a time when our digital arteries are furred up and clogged, the provision of physical infrastructure, including rail services from Somerset to London, is that much more important. It is therefore something of a joy for those of us who represent constituencies in the south-west to have the opportunity to shine a torch on the literal disconnectivity that continues to prove such an obstacle to inward investment. Hon. Members will recall George Eliot’s claim that
“you can’t hinder the railroad: it will be made whether you like it or not.”
Many in Somerton and Frome would wish that to be translated into reality, rather than remaining a distant aspiration, 150 years after the words were written.
All hon. Members welcome the Government’s support for the peninsula rail taskforce, which is a productive part of this Administration’s obvious commitment to bridging the gap in infrastructure investment between the south-west and other parts of Britain. Treasury figures show that, until recently, the people of the south-west, including the robust people of Somerton and Frome and other constituencies represented in the Chamber today, received the second-lowest rail funding per head in the country. Predictably, our funding is more than eight times less than that for Londoners and half that for the people of the north-west, and there is a yawning financial chasm between our funding and the funding for the north-east.
We need that to change if the south-west is to begin to realise its potential. Moreover, we need to be connected to what is already there. The unelectrified, 27-mile line between Castle Cary and Taunton is the longest stretch of track without a station in the entire west. Many of the residents of the inaccessible wilds around the towns of Somerton and Langport will be eagerly foraging through Hansard in the hope of discovering that they will be the ones to benefit from the Treasury’s renewal of the new stations fund. This week, however, their hopes have careered towards the buffers as Somerset county council has announced its unwillingness to submit a bid for a new station, apparently owing to the cost of putting it together. I will welcome any reassurance that local authorities and other interested parties such as local enterprise partnerships will be able to receive constructive support with the bidding process. To fall at that fence seems rather absurd.
Alongside new stations, I am also acutely aware of and, I must say, rather disconcerted by, the threat to the existing direct trains from Frome to London. It is good news to see that South West Trains is looking to steam in and open up the route but, from May 2017, Great Western Railway is planning to remove its direct trains from Frome to London. As the south-west refranchising process takes place, I hope such lack of investment is fully taken into account.
We must keep Frome fully connected. The removal of services would be a hugely retrograde step, in particular for a town enjoying such an extraordinary period of economic and social development. Since its creation, the railway has been instrumental in the march of social progress. The Government’s commitment to rebalance the economy and equip the south-west with the tools it needs to attract investment, grow business and assemble its own future success is therefore all to the good. In fact, the only thing that could act as a greater brake on the south-west’s development than a lack of infrastructure would be a paucity of ambition. That, I am happy to report, is not a problem with which we need to contend.
Today’s debate is a timely acknowledgement of the importance of rail services in realising that ambition. I look forward to working with others to foment the overflow of capital investment and deliver the connectivity that the west of England needs.
I echo my colleagues’ sentiments about highlighting the importance of the debate, which was introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth South (Mrs Drummond). It is a vital debate in the light of the new franchising process.
We have heard about the importance of the Eastleigh chord—I am the Member for Eastleigh. It is exciting to hear because that could unlock connectivity for us in the south. I have certainly had many letters from upset, abject commuters who feel that Eastleigh has long not had the strong voice that it should have in discussions of productivity and added value in the Solent region. Eastleigh needs a strong voice among the voices of Winchester, Portsmouth and Southampton to secure better train links, and to ensure that the big cities of the Solent region continue to bring in key investment for our constituencies to reflect the £374 million that our region gives to the Exchequer through our rail services. Frankly, many of us in the south-east parts of the south-west feel taken for granted. The debate is a chance for us to be heard by the Minister, who has visited Eastleigh. She has seen its importance as a railway town and what the railway gives to the local economy.
We must take notice of the Wessex route study, which reports 20% higher-than-expected demand. The new franchise gives us the investment opportunity. The Waterloo throat has long been the subject of conversation on the doorstep with my constituents, because it has an impact on their commute to London. We must all reflect on the fact that commuting is now longer, harder and more difficult, with people having to consider their home situations and to travel further than they might like.
I should also reflect on the comments made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke (Mrs Miller) about house building, which greatly concerns me, too. I already have a constituency of almost 80,000 residents. The 17,000 new homes likely to feature in the long-awaited new plan for the Eastleigh constituency could take the population to about 120,000. Frankly, our rail services will not be able to cope with that. That is only one little picture of hard-pressed commuters in the south.
I welcome the comments made by my hon. Friend the Member for North East Hampshire (Mr Jayawardena) about branch lines. I find it baffling that we have so many empty trains heading along the track when people do not need them. Commuters, in particular those of Hedge End, feel that their voices should be heard more clearly.
Getting around Eastleigh is difficult. The Secretary of State for Transport came down for the election campaign. I told him that the roads are extremely bad and he said, “Everyone tells me that,” but he experienced it for himself. Many of my constituents have to head to Portsmouth, Southampton or Gosport in the morning. The train between my constituency and Portsmouth and Southampton takes well over an hour, so people take to their cars. The M27 simply cannot cope. We have heard that more than 100,000 people travel between junctions 8 and 9—I say “travel” but most of them spend a lot of time just sitting there. During the election campaign, there was an incident on the motorway and, for 12 hours, nobody could move. That is a big problem because our acute hospital services for Eastleigh are in the major cities. Travel is a problem for people to get their health services. We have no escape routes. We have narrow, old-fashioned rural roads, which are absolutely chocker. When I left my office on that particular day in the campaign at 11 o’clock at night, it took me about an hour and a half to go two miles. There are so many cars on our roads. The M27 corridor is creaking and the M3 is suffering.
My hon. Friend and I share a bit of the Eastleigh borough—I represent the Chandler’s Ford and Hiltingbury part of it—and the local roads are a nightmare. Does she agree that it might be helpful if Eastleigh borough council got on with its local plan, which is currently a complete disaster zone?
Absolutely—that is music to my ears, given that we are going to be waiting until November next year for a plan. Consistently, there is hostile development on green spaces. Those are not sustainable places on which to be building, and at the moment, a planning application for a car lot and a drive-through restaurant is going through for the old council offices. That is a sustainable place for more houses that would be within walking distance of Eastleigh train station.
In Eastleigh, we have Southampton airport, which is an important regional airport and a hub for passengers coming into the area from Guernsey in particular. It has been highlighted, however, that it is sometimes easier for people to get to Gatwick than to Southampton, given that they can take a train from Swanwick heading up towards Gatwick and fly out that way, rather than trying to get from Guernsey or the island into Southampton to fly. That is a big concern for me. We have many short commutes that should be eminently doable, but they are a major problem because of the number of people doing those commutes on a struggling motorway, with no rail option. We have an extremely important enterprise zone bid based around the airport. The local enterprise partnership is backing that, but it can work only if we get better rail services. We need bypasses and link roads, and I have been making the case for those very strongly.
In conclusion, as we have heard, the Transport Secretary has kindly visited my patch. He knows the importance of Eastleigh. It is a great place to work, live and do business, but it is a terrible place to get around. The new franchise in 2017 is a vital opportunity for all of us across Hampshire and the south-west to seize the opportunity and stand up for the Solent and the south-west corridor. We must deal with capacity, power supply and the Waterloo throat issue. We must fight for investment, recognise the demand increase and ensure that we enact as much as possible, as soon as possible, from the Wessex route study.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Roger. Having taken trains from your constituency in my youth, the only overcrowding I ever experienced was when The Guardian newspaper started to advertise Whitstable as a great place to go, and there was an overcrowding of hipsters in skinny jeans on the train on a Sunday night, getting back up to Islington.
In any event, I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth South (Mrs Drummond). It appears that the problem at her end of the line is the amount of time journeys take, whereas the problem at my end of the line, in Kingston and Surbiton, is the terrible overcrowding we suffer. The problem was aptly set out in a detailed Wessex route study, which referred to a predicted 40% growth in passenger volume over the next 30 years. That assumes we are at capacity now, but the reality is that we are not; we are 20% overcapacity on peak services. I am assuming that the 20% must be averaged out across the whole line, because if Members were to come to Surbiton station, they would see what looks like a lot more than 20% overcapacity on peak services. I invite the Minister, if she wants to see what it looks like, to accompany me to Surbiton station of a morning and see dangerous overcrowding on the platform and commuters having to be packed in like sardines. I note that I have to get on a train at 6.35 am to avoid that, and even then, I am not guaranteed a seat.
The people getting on these trains are taxpayers. In fact, many come from the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Esher and Walton (Mr Raab), where residents of Elmbridge account for the highest amount of income tax paid to the Exchequer in the entire country. These people are taxpayers who pay for their tickets, but they have to be packed in like sardines to get into London in the morning, even if they get up at the crack of dawn to avoid it. Unlike the constituents of my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth South, there will be no complaints from Surbiton residents about the nature of the seats they have to sit on trains to London. Their complaints will be about not getting a seat at all. The nub of the problem is that at peak times, Waterloo station is at capacity. The Waterloo throat means that simply no more services can be run into Waterloo at peak times.
So what is the solution? The Wessex route study makes several suggestions, all of which I commend, but a number of them are simply sticking plasters. Extending the old Eurostar platforms at Waterloo station is happening, but those will not be ready until 2017 or 2018. That will allow 10-car trains from my constituency into Waterloo, but it will only deal with the existing overcrowding and not with the projected growth in passenger volume.
In fact, the Wessex route study concludes that the only solution that will come close to dealing with the expected volume of additional passengers is Crossrail 2. Crossrail 2 would allow our existing commuter services to continue as they do now, while operating, in parallel, an entirely different route through a tunnel at Wimbledon and on to Victoria, Tottenham Court Road and King’s Cross. It would therefore connect this new concept of a southern powerhouse to the slightly older concept of the northern powerhouse. It would be a massive boon for commuters on the whole Wessex route, but particularly, for commuters in the incredibly overcrowded suburban stations, including all those in my constituency.
In conclusion, the overcrowding on peak services from my constituency is an absolute disgrace. The situation cannot be allowed to continue and I urge the Minister to support the proposals in the Wessex route study and to ensure that they are fed into the tender to make sure that overcrowding is dealt with and that passengers get value for money. I urge her to support Crossrail 2, which the Chancellor has hinted at his support for in recent weeks and months. I also urge the Minister to work with colleagues here, as she already has been doing, to ensure that between now and 2030—when Crossrail 2, if it is approved, will go online—there is a solution to the overcrowding that will plainly continue over that time, and which, unfortunately, is not addressed by any of the sticking plasters that we have seen proposed so far.
It is always a pleasure to serve under your stewardship in this Chamber, Sir Roger. I begin by congratulating the hon. Member for Portsmouth South (Mrs Drummond) on securing today’s debate. Having previously brought similar debates to this House for my own area in Greater Manchester, I know just how important rail travel and public transport are to constituents and how appreciative they are when their Members of Parliament raise such matters.
I am pleased to see the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, the hon. Member for Devizes (Claire Perry), responding on behalf of the Government. When this debate was first announced, it caused considerable excitement in Her Majesty’s Opposition’s transport team. Would, we wondered, the debate be responded to by the rail Minister or the Minister for Portsmouth? I can only conclude that that decision was made at the highest levels of Government, but I am delighted to see the rail Minister here today.
As the hon. Member for Portsmouth South made clear in her opening speech, rail services in Portsmouth and the south-west face several issues. When the Minister replies to the debate, I am sure that she will have been left in no doubt about where improvements are needed, and I hope that the hon. Member for Portsmouth South receives the answers that she requested.
Some of the problems that have been raised in this debate are simply down to poor levels of service, whereas some are down to poor decisions that the Government have made. Others, however, are due to the poor system we have for running rail services in the UK, and I will say something about all those issues in my reply.
The record of this Government, and indeed, of the previous Conservative-led coalition Government, is much less favourable than they like to make out. I often find that the rhetoric that we hear in the House of Commons on rail matters simply does not match the experience of our constituents and passengers, and often shows a real disconnect from their everyday commuting reality. It is one thing for us to sit here in Westminster and debate the performance of rail services in Portsmouth and the south-west, but perhaps those who are best placed to judge it are the rail users themselves. Unfortunately, the results do not make for good reading, with a steady decrease in passenger satisfaction, which the hon. Lady referred to, and which I hope the Minister will address in her reply. We have seen decreases in passenger satisfaction across the board in Portsmouth, with perhaps the most striking statistic being that just 21% of commuters believe that their services are good value for money. When taxpayers are making a net payment of nearly £4 billion a year to the railways as a whole, on top of ever rising fares, the fact that passenger satisfaction is decreasing should cause great alarm to the Minister. I look forward to hearing how she intends to rectify that.
Rail users in Portsmouth and the south-west have not been immune to the trend of rising fares either, with commuters in particular being hit hard. By next year, the cost of a season ticket from Portsmouth to Eastleigh will have increased by 25% since 2010, and the cost of a season ticket from Portsmouth to London by 26%, a rise of more than £1,000. The mixture of rising fares and decreasing satisfaction in Portsmouth is clearly not a good combination and suggests that real change is needed.
The Government have announced plans to increase fares only by inflation during this Parliament, with the Minister herself saying recently that that policy would cost about £700 million a year in lost revenue, but we have not been offered an explanation of how the Government will make up that significant fall in revenue. My fear is that it will be another broken promise after the electrification fiascos. I hope that at the very least she can give us a guarantee today that services will not be cut to pay for that panicked pre-election announcement.
Labour Members think that passengers should simply have access to clearer ticketing and be able to get a better deal than they can currently. Fares and ticketing structures in this country are some of the most complex in Europe, and it is passengers who often pay the additional price.
There is, of course, as we have heard today, another scourge of train passengers in the south-west—overcrowding. That problem is faced by many services around the country, including in my own area in Greater Manchester. Clearly, extra capacity is desperately needed. The previous Labour Government invested more in the railways in real terms, especially in Portsmouth and the south-west, than any previous Government. In 2013, two Portsmouth commuter trains were named as among the 10 most overcrowded rail services in the country; both had load factors of more than 150%. Since then, services to and from Portsmouth have not featured in the top 10. However, before we start celebrating, it would probably be safe to assume that Portsmouth’s non-inclusion reflects greater levels of overcrowding elsewhere rather than better services for Portsmouth commuters.
Franchising fiascos have also become a theme under this Government, as they were under the previous, Conservative-led Government. We saw the shambles of the west coast main line franchising process, which had a knock-on effect on other services, and the disappointing decision not to keep the profitable east coast service publicly owned. Yet again, Portsmouth and the south-west have had experience of this problem. In July of this year, just two months after the Government took office, the Minister’s Department announced that negotiations to agree a direct award for South West Trains with Stagecoach had broken down. As a result, the franchising timetable has had to be redrawn. Most concerning of all is that the Department for Transport spent more than £800,000 on contract negotiations with Stagecoach, yet failed to reach a satisfactory outcome. I hope that the Minister, in her reply, can confirm whether the Department has recovered those costs and can expand some more on why the negotiations broke down.
It appears that the Minister has not seriously considered the possibility of using Directly Operated Railways. She should need no convincing of DOR’s record, given that it delivered record passenger satisfaction and punctuality scores on east coast services and there was a public outcry when the franchise was handed to Virgin. The Government simply do not have a good record on franchise negotiation. I suggest that to avoid the problem, they could simply come round to the Labour party’s way of thinking, which is that we should bin the franchising system altogether, because it is simply too costly and inefficient and creates an inflexible railway unable to meet the needs of passengers.
Another recurring theme under this Government has been the troubled approach to electrification—something that the south-west has also suffered from. The Labour Government committed to the electrification of the Great Western main line in the south-west back in 2009, but under this Government the cost has escalated drastically and the project is now delayed. Labour Members have repeatedly warned that the Great Western main line electrification is in danger because of rising costs. The estimated cost is now three times higher than in 2011. It is currently a staggering £1.74 billion. The Government have attempted to lay some of the blame at Network Rail’s door, but the Minister must also take responsibility for not confirming the project until July 2012, meaning that essential planning work was delayed. Even Network Rail’s head of long-term planning and funding has alluded to that, saying that it did not have the level of confidence that it might have wished at the start.
All this is becoming too usual, and it is rail users who will suffer because of the delays and cost increases. The faster trains and increased capacity that south-west rail users want and hon. Members have requested here today will not be delivered on time. What will particularly irk passengers will be not seeing improvements in rolling stock. The Government’s plans to replace uncomfortable and inaccessible Pacer trains on branch lines in the south-west depend on the success of the electrification programme. If the Great Western electrification project is significantly delayed, passengers in the south-west are likely to suffer with poor rolling stock for years—stock that the Government have agreed is unacceptable for my constituents in the north of England.
I do not expect the Minister to offer any solutions to that today, as the Government have previously said that until the Hendy report is published they cannot give any credible promises on the delivery timetables of any other projects. I would be grateful, however, if the Minister could confirm in her reply the date on which the Hendy report is due to be published, as one would hope that it would be available in time for the comprehensive spending review.
I again congratulate the hon. Member for Portsmouth South on initiating today’s debate. I completely understand why she and her constituents are unhappy with aspects of rail services in Portsmouth and the south-west. Clearly, the Government have much work to do to tackle overcrowding, to stop drastic fare rises, to improve rolling stock, to combat decreasing passenger satisfaction and to deliver planned infrastructure projects. Labour Members want answers from the Minister as to how the Government intend to address those matters. In the Labour party, we believe that there is a better way of running our railways—we put passengers at the centre of the network and learn lessons from successful rail networks in other countries. I look forward to continuing this conversation with all hon. Members in the future.
It is, as always, a pleasure to be part of a debate that you are chairing, Sir Roger. I extend thanks to my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth South (Mrs Drummond). I will go on to give a detailed response to her questions, but first I want to welcome the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Jonathan Reynolds), who I believe is my newly confirmed shadow, to his position. I will not try to answer most of his questions today; I would rather focus on the subject of the debate. I would be delighted if he called an Opposition day debate on the railways. I would be delighted to have a conversation over the Dispatch Box about the Labour Government electrifying less than 10 miles of track in 13 years. We will do many times more than that in this Parliament. Indeed, the Labour Government had the chance to get rid of the Pacers that so upset his constituents in 2003 and 2004 and chose not to. It is this Government who will take the railways forward. I would be delighted to have that conversation with him in more detail on a more generic level.
This was a fantastic debate. These debates are often hard to listen to and respond to because they are full of superb facts. Before getting on to the meat of the conversation that my hon. Friend started, I want to talk about some of the other questions that were raised. My hon. Friend the Member for Havant (Mr Mak) highlighted extremely well the fact that this is about not just London-based connectivity, but east-west connectivity. In fact, regional rail now has the highest growth rates across the rail network. People are increasingly choosing to use rail for short journeys as well as long ones, and I think that it is incredibly important that that is recognised in future investment planning.
I have already had many good conversations with my hon. Friend the Member for North East Hampshire (Mr Jayawardena) on this subject. He likes to analyse the economics of the railways, which is always very welcome. I was pleased that he recognised that a lot of investment is going into these services. Indeed, the works at Waterloo, costing more than £350 million, are designed to alleviate capacity problems. That, plus the new rolling stock commitment that will apply to some of the lines in the South West franchise area, is designed to deal with growth up until the mid-2020s and is a necessary precursor to additional work that needs to happen to lift capacity further on the Portsmouth line. My hon. Friend also talked about the importance of wi-fi on trains—a personal commitment and interest of mine. I can assure him that the Government are committed to introducing free wi-fi on all classes by 2018, either through the franchising process or through in-franchise changes. It is extremely important, particularly on longer distance journeys.
My hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Wight (Mr Turner) once again made very telling points. I am happy to confirm again my commitment and the Government’s commitment to finding a long-term sustainable solution for Island Line and to pay tribute to Mr Garnett, who has worked so hard on this. I am also happy to ask ATOC to look at the issue of ticketing and joining-up of timetabling. There may be some technical issue, but I am happy to ensure that we explore that further. I also pay tribute to my hon. Friend for all the work that he has done for a line that is lovely to look at, but perhaps is not delivering some of the benefits that could be delivered. I urge Isle of Wight Council to continue its good work on that process.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke (Mrs Miller) spoke very eloquently, as always, about the importance of dealing with crowding, particularly in fast growing areas. She raised the issue of trains during the peak shoulders. The challenge with that is that if we buy lots of trains to run into London during the peak, they are in London, not in Basingstoke, when we want them to be full of people—
Order. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Lady, but the microphones in this Chamber are rather more directional than those in the main Chamber. The hon. Lady is off the microphone, which is making things difficult for those responsible for the sound.
I am so sorry. I was trying to address Members, but you are quite right, Sir Roger.
This is an important point about how we maximise the capacity of the existing rolling stock. I thank my right hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke for raising the points made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Anne Milton), who often shares those views with me by text when she is in her favourite seat. I am grateful for the work that my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth North (Penny Mordaunt) has done assiduously over the years, focusing on the challenges of the different sorts of rolling stock.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke asked me two questions. First, she asked whether I am content with the planning process, and whether I think that it joins up growth projections and challenges sufficiently. My answer is, “partly”. I know that local authorities feed into the Network Rail route study work, but I am unconvinced that we have got things right across government in terms of the economic value added that a well-designed transport network can bring. We are really working to solve that challenge. It is important that we get representations from local Members, local enterprise partnerships and communities so that we can see where that growth comes from.
My right hon. Friend raised the sad challenge of reducing fatalities on the railway. I am happy to confirm that we have the safest railway in Europe, but she is right to say that the number of fatalities is growing, with people often choosing to end their lives on the tracks. There is an enormous amount of work going on with operators, Network Rail and Samaritans to try to reduce that. I want to mention how dreadful that experience can be for the train drivers who witness it. It is a terrible problem, which is a source of enormous delay on the network and of terrible trauma for the victims’ families and the drivers.
Everybody, including me, hates three-plus-two seating. It is awful, and we all know that. The challenge on the lines we are discussing is whether you design for inner-London routes, such as those in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston and Surbiton (James Berry), or for long-distance routes. At the moment, the franchise has been doing its best with the rolling stock to try to design a system that minimises crowding, although I know that it does not always feel like that. It would be possible to remove the seats, as has been done on trains on the Great Western network, but then more people will be unable to sit. It is a conundrum, and I may be able to mention some of the solutions later.
Many hon. Members who are present today have taken me around their constituencies and showed me the trains, and they continue to campaign assiduously for transport improvements. My hon. Friend the Member for Somerton and Frome (David Warburton) managed to include in his speech furred-up arteries, George Eliot and Somerset County Council, which was an impressive achievement. I am happy to ask my officials to work with Somerset County Council on how to get a bid for a new station together. That is absolutely imperative, and we know that it has been done very successfully by Taunton, just down the road. The money for that project came out of a growth fund deal, but it is possible to bid for a new station and doing so would be valuable. I would be happy to see how we might be able to help.
My hon. Friend the Member for Eastleigh (Mims Davies) talked about the importance of the Eastleigh chord, and described well the need to join up transport. We need to think not about road or rail in isolation, but about what is best for the local communities. My hon. Friend the Member for Winchester (Steve Brine) was right to say that the local plan is the way to encapsulate that, and I know that he will urge the local authorities to get on with it.
We have covered many subjects over the past hour and a half, but we have not talked about the Government’s commitment to smarter ticketing and part-time season tickets, which might have a significant impact by alleviating some overcrowding, although only some. Does the Minister still have her passion for that?
Yes, and I will race through my final comments and come on to what I think are some of the solutions. My hon. Friend the Member for Kingston and Surbiton pointed out what a balancing act we face, because train usage across the country is rising, and trains that start off empty become crowded. Indeed, I have travelled on some of the top 10 most crowded trains, because I tend to go out and mystery shop them. It is not encouraging to be unable to sit down on the journey into London at 6 o’clock in the morning, work for 12 or 14 hours and then go home. People deserve better.
What are the possible solutions? I will abandon my speech now—when I do so, it always makes my officials incredibly nervous—and talk about what could be done. There is a cascade of things that can be done to increase capacity. We can work on existing lines, and do the sorts of work talked about in the Wessex route Study. Such work is important, and it is being looked at, reviewed and prioritised. We need to ensure that everybody understands the costs and benefits of such work for economic value added, not just for transport users. Such works are always expensive and difficult, because they involve so much disruption.
We can do things such as digital enhancements on the railway. When it comes to the number of train paths, the railways are now full, but if we can use digital technology to reduce the time between trains, we will be able to run more of them. That is a big long-term investment plan for Network Rail. Building new lines is often cheaper than expanding existing lines. We heard a lot of mention of Crossrail 2, a vital project that will help to alleviate congestion—as will Crossrail 1—in the metro and suburban areas.
We can buy new trains. Indeed, many new trains are being delivered to the South West franchise, but what tends to happen is that they are built to satisfy demand at peak times, and they run empty for much of the day. Is that an effective thing to do? Would it be possible to use those trains better? That brings me to the point about part-time season tickets. Providing incentives for people to change their journey patterns and move around outside peak time can be cost-effective and help us to use train capacity better.
Finally, we can, as my hon. Friend the Member for North East Hampshire mentioned, change stopping patterns. It is completely possible to run a very high speed, non-stop train to Portsmouth if it does not stop anywhere else. As we move forward and consider the consultation, we have to ask ourselves that sort of question. What is the right journey pattern for the demand? Is it right to devolve more services to TfL, to deal with some of the inner-London metro demand and outer-London demand, in order to run services that are better fitted for long-distance users?
What are the right solutions? I do not know, and I do not think that we, individually, know. Part of the problem in the industry is that people work in silos when they make decisions, so there will be an operational solution, a solution for passengers and perhaps a political solution. We need to get the right people in the right place to make those decisions, to make sure that the money is there and that organisations can deliver. That is why the Hendy review is so important. We need to take politics out of the process, which is why I so welcome the appointment of Lord Adonis; I think he is a good man to do the long-term infrastructure planning. We need to work together to solve some of the knotty problems. There is a huge amount of financial commitment to the railways, and we are committing to the biggest investment programme since Victorian times, which is a vital part of delivering economic growth. Collectively as Members, working with our local communities, local businesses, my officials, Network Rail and the operators, we can come up with the right solutions.
What do we need to do? First, we need to keep all the information coming in in response to the route study. That will determine the near-term investment plans, which cover the next five to 10 years. Secondly, the consultation on the franchise process will start before Christmas, and it is absolutely vital that we have a real, in-depth analysis of what we want. Is this the right time to start putting in some express services that do not stop between some of the big conurbations, with a consequent possible loss of services in terms of stopping patterns? Can the network collectively work that out? Following that consultation, the invitation to tender will go out before April 2016, and the franchise will start in 2017.
I do not know what the right solution is, and I do not believe that any individual holds it. Collectively, however, working together across the boundaries that have built up in the railway sector between operators, the network and regulators, we can come up with a better solution. The experience of passengers must be put front and centre, because the railway is not about boxes running about on rails. I was told by somebody who has left the industry that if it were not for the passengers, the timetabling would be perfect. I found that both amusing and incredibly offensive, because it suggested that we were talking about somebody’s train set rather than a transport system that millions of people rely on to get to work and to get back home to their families.
My plea to team Hampshire—I am delighted that it has an identity—and also to team Somerset, team Wiltshire, team Stalybridge and Hyde—
And to team Isle of Wight. My plea is that I hope that, by working together, we can come up with a better solution. We want to invest in the railways. They are a vital part of delivering local, regional and national economic growth. We are in an exciting place, because we have finally realised the importance of railway investment in delivering the economic growth that we want for our constituents.
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth South once more. With her eloquent and intelligent speech, she auditioned extremely well for my job. I commend her for securing the debate.
I thank my hon. Friend for turning up. I think that there are solutions to the problem. I will be pursuing it, and I am sure that we will all work together on that. As part of that, I will write a report to the Chancellor to see whether we can get some funding as well. Thank you, Sir Roger, for your chairmanship of the debate.
Question put and agreed to.
That this House has considered rail services to Portsmouth and the South West.
UK Science Budget
I beg to move,
That this House has considered the UK science budget and the 2015 Spending Review.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Roger. Let me say at the outset that the Government face a difficult situation in balancing budgets, but scientific research is one of the UK’s biggest assets. It has transformed the way we go about our everyday lives—from the technologies we use to communicate to the tools we use to diagnose, prevent and treat illness. Stable, long-term Government investment—capital and resource—will cement this country’s global competitiveness, give confidence to the private sector, make the UK an even more attractive place to do business, increase employment opportunities and deliver wide-ranging societal and health benefits.
In recent weeks, we have seen the news of a simple blood test that can rapidly diagnose whether chest pain is being caused by a heart attack. For the 1 million people suffering from chest pain who visit the UK’s accident and emergency departments each year, the test will make a real difference at a distressing time. A new study, which was funded by the British Heart Foundation, shows that the test can diagnose a heart attack much more rapidly than current tests, allowing patients to receive the treatment they need or to return home quickly, avoiding an anxious and sometimes unnecessary wait. The test would not only improve patient care, but free up capacity in our busy A&E departments, saving the NHS money.
Such breakthroughs have made, and continue to make, a profound difference to our lives as individuals and to the UK economy as a whole. If we are to keep hearing such stories, we must protect investment in UK research. The Government have an opportunity to renew their commitment to it in this spending review.
A successful research base relies on stable, long-term investment by a network of funders across the public and private sectors. Each funder has an important role to play, and if one moves away, the others would be unable to step in and compensate. The Government are a key part of that funding network. By providing underlying support to our world-class universities and research institutes, as well as individual support to talented researchers, Government investment creates a healthy research environment, in which industry and charities can invest.
I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing this important debate. Does he agree that, with the new £235 million Sir Henry Royce Institute and the £65 million Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre in Manchester, and the £113 million cognitive computer research centre in Warrington, continuing to support UK sciences is an essential part of securing the northern powerhouse?
As a northern MP, I would certainly agree. That just goes to show that this budget can really help us achieve more than one of our aims.
The Government also provide funding in partnership with industry and charitable funders to bring together the power and expertise needed to tackle some of the biggest challenges facing society and to develop the UK’s expertise in areas of real promise, and we have seen just how powerful such joint funding can be. We have pioneering projects such as the UK Biobank, which is now following the health of half a million people across the UK, and the Farr Institute, which is unlocking the full potential of health data.
The innovation at Queen’s University in Belfast includes perfecting new drugs for cancer, heart disease and diabetes. It is important that we have a relationship with not only Queen’s University but universities across the UK mainland, and I want us to make sure that these moneys will enable that to happen, so that everyone in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland can benefit. Does the hon. Gentleman agree? I am sure he does, but I just wanted to ask him.
I have no choice—of course, I agree with the hon. Gentleman. He is right: this is about supporting the whole United Kingdom.
Evidence has shown that public sector investment in research encourages the private sector to invest too. Analysis has shown that an extra £1 of public funding would give rise to an increase in private funding of between £1.13 and £1.60.
The Government’s decision to protect science in 2010, at a time of significant savings, has been appreciated by the sector. It has enabled researchers to continue to push the boundaries of research and to transform exciting scientific discoveries into tangible benefits for patients and the economy. However, there are concerns that, with the true value of the science budget eroding, and with more savings in the pipeline, research could be at risk. Almost 200 life science organisations recently raised those concerns in a letter to the Chancellor.
Why should the Government invest in research? First, research saves lives. Across a number of different conditions, we have seen huge improvements in the range of treatments available, with people surviving conditions that would have been death sentences in the past. According to statistics from the British Heart Foundation, seven out 10 people now survive a heart attack.
The UK punches above its weight in terms of the outcomes its research sector achieves relative to the amount of money invested overall. On many measures, the sector is the most efficient in the world, and strikingly better than many of its competitors. The excellence of the UK science and research base results from universities’ autonomy and responsiveness; the competitive, dynamic funding system; the dual-support funding mechanism; an effective governance and research infrastructure; and the critical role played by universities in the science, research and innovation ecosystem.
Does my hon. Friend agree that, given the changing nature of the research model in the life sciences industry generally, it is even more vital that the Government maintain their investment in universities? Such is the burden of regulation and the investment model required by the private sector that molecules drugs therapies, often co-researched by the private sector, have to spend much more time in academia. If we withdraw funding at that stage, the research will simply not happen and will not transfer elsewhere.
My hon. Friend raises an incredibly important and valid point, which emphasises the points I am making about Government investment in this important area.
An investment in research is an investment in our economy. The UK life sciences industry generates an estimated annual turnover of £56 billion and employs 183,000 people across the UK. Investment encourages innovation, attracts business to the UK and leads to treatments and technologies that allow us all to lead healthier, more productive lives.
I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing the debate. He is making an excellent case for science. He will know that the Science and Technology Committee is conducting an inquiry into the science budget. Many witnesses have expressed concern that total investment in research and development in the UK is historically low and falling. Does my hon. Friend agree with them that there is a case for a road map to increase R and D, even though the situation cannot be reversed immediately? That would not only ensure that we retained our competitiveness internationally, but send an important signal to investors that we are a good place to invest in.
The Chair of the Select Committee is absolutely right. We want to maintain our position as world leaders in this area, and it is important that we do that.
The Government have recognised the link between R and D spending and national productivity, and they have even highlighted science and innovation as a key driver in their plan to make the UK a more productive nation. The spending review therefore gives the Government a real opportunity to invest the resource needed to deliver on that promise, creating a more prosperous nation.
I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing this important debate. He is making a powerful argument. He touched on the important issue of making the UK a more productive nation. The UK population is set to increase by 15% over the next 20 years, and we will need to produce more than 60% more food by 2050. Does he agree that science plays a key role in our agricultural sector in terms of meeting that demand for food and the need to increase production, which has been plateauing for many years? Does he also agree that the Government need to reaffirm their support for the agri-tech sector over the long term?
I am grateful for that intervention. I think I should have applied for a longer debate, given the number of Members who are here. As a fellow Yorkshire MP, and given the importance of the agri-food industry for our county, I certainly agree with my hon. Friend’s points.
Groups such as Universities UK are concerned that, while the Government have made a commitment of capital expenditure for the forthcoming spending period, they have yet to make any commitment of revenue expenditure, which would allow the sector to make the best use of both new and existing facilities and infrastructure. What will we lose if the Government do not maintain their commitment? Frankly, if we have less, clearly we can do less. The UK science sector has been very good at making efficiencies, through equipment sharing and team science, but there is a finite amount of adjustment that it can make, and further cuts will have a damaging impact on the ability of the sector to conduct world-class research.
The hon. Gentleman is being generous with his time in this short debate. He makes a good case about the quality and high impact of United Kingdom science, but does he agree that the target that the Government should really set is to increase the amount of money we spend on science above the 1.8% of GDP that we spend at the moment, and to bring it much closer to 3% of GDP? That is the European Union’s international standard, and some of our competitors are heading in that direction very quickly.
I fear that the hon. Gentleman has just ruined the end of my speech, but it will be worth emphasising the point.
The goal of eliminating the deficit is, of course, necessary, but some universities have already felt the effect of funding reductions. Any further reductions would, in the Russell Group’s words, be
“entirely counterproductive for the long-term health of the economy and risk losing the UK’s competitive advantage”.
The benefits of research are not a secret. We are not the only country that has realised that research is a worthwhile investment. Other countries are substantially increasing their support for research and development. If we are unable to maintain our world-leading reputation, we risk falling behind and losing talent and business overseas, or to different sectors altogether. We saw that in the 1980s, when cuts in research drove many UK scientists to the USA. We do not want that to happen again.
We still have further to go. Cardiovascular disease causes more than a quarter of all deaths in the UK, and the cost of premature death, lost productivity, hospital treatment and prescriptions relating to cardiovascular disease is estimated at £15 billion to £19 billion each year. We have made huge improvements to our health and wellbeing, but our successes bring with them new challenges. When I worked in the children’s hospice movement I saw many times how children with complex and once fatal conditions now survive into adulthood; we must discover how to keep them healthy throughout their lives. As people live longer, we need to learn how to manage chronic conditions, so that we are not only extending but improving life.
Scientific research has brought us a long way in improving the health and wealth of the UK. Through continued Government investment, maintained in line with inflation, we can build on the successes that have been achieved so far and work towards a UK that realises its full potential. Universities UK has suggested, as did the hon. Member for Blackley and Broughton (Graham Stringer), that we should seek to match the level of expenditure of our competitor countries; otherwise there is a risk that our relative research strength will decline. Using the same group of comparator countries identified in a recent benchmarking study conducted on behalf of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, the overall investment level required would be 2.9% of GDP. That level of total investment would also be broadly consistent with the commitment made in the Lisbon treaty for investment across the European Union of 3%, with one third coming from public sources. To support that overriding objective, the Government should set out a 10-year investment strategy, with a view to securing an above-inflation rise in public investment in science and research over that period. That would help to maintain our reputation across the globe, and our lead in so many fields which will improve all our lives.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Pudsey (Stuart Andrew) on securing this debate, on a subject that is vital to the country’s future. As has already been said, we are a global leader in research and development, and the city of Cambridge is at the heart of that leadership.
A few years ago, when AstraZeneca was deciding where to relocate, it chose Cambridge; but if it had not been Cambridge it would have been somewhere outside the UK. That is the risk that the Government run if the rumours that we hear are true, and if they put at risk the long-running consensus on science funding. Let us be clear that the ring fence during the previous Parliament was not great; it was actually a substantial cut in real terms over the lifetime of the Parliament. Stop-start policies on capital funding also caused problems. The sector just about managed to survive that, but it has a clear view of what future funding cuts would do.
Last Friday I visited the Gurdon Institute in Cambridge. It works with Alzheimer’s Research UK and is doing groundbreaking work that will help us to treat dementia. It is hugely important, but there is a strong message from the institute: any cut in public funding puts the associated private funding at risk. Just outside Cambridge, the Babraham Research Institute is another world-leading life sciences institute. It has 350 members working alongside 60 companies employing more than 600 people. The institute said in written evidence to the Select Committee on Science and Technology that
“the current level of funding will not sustain the UK’s existing science and research capability, whilst any reduction would be extremely damaging…it is likely that world leading scientists will leave the UK for other countries such as Germany where there is increased investment into science funding.”
I put those comments to Professor Rick Rylance, who chairs Research Councils UK, at a sitting of the Committee. He agreed that we are close to a tipping point and he warned that a time would come when the future would be “in jeopardy”. Those are serious warnings from senior people.
We all appreciate that spending decisions are difficult, but if we are truly to win the race to the top, we need a bigger knowledge economy, with high-skilled, well-paid jobs. I remind hon. Members that the Government’s own science and innovation strategy promised to inject £1.1 billion of capital into the sciences, at least in part to ensure that there would be what they called “adequate resource funding”. I never thought I would quote the current Chancellor with approval, but he delivered a major speech in April 2014 at the wondrous Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, and it is worth reminding colleagues of his promise that
“support for and application of science is right at the centre of our long term economic plan.”
That support must, in my view at least, mean maintaining the science budget. I strongly encourage the Minister and Conservative Members to remind the Chancellor of that promise as the Government consider these important decisions.
I, too, congratulate the hon. Member for Pudsey (Stuart Andrew) on obtaining this important debate, and I agree with all the points he made.
Time is short and I will say just two things. GlaxoSmithKline’s headquarters are in my constituency and it employs many local people. There are also many science-based employers down the road in Hammersmith. There have been comments today about universities’ concern about the fact that there is to be no inflation growth in public spending on science, which is effectively a cut. I am also concerned about the lack of investment in and encouragement of science, technology, engineering and maths in schools. We need to invest in that—in schools and colleges—to support and encourage young people not only to start but to continue with STEM subjects.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Roger. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Pudsey (Stuart Andrew) on securing the debate on a subject that is being explored in great detail at the moment by the Science and Technology Committee. I am glad to see the Chair, my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford West and Abingdon (Nicola Blackwood), here, along with other members of the Committee.
My hon. Friend the Member for Pudsey raised the issue of medical research and the contributions of the British Heart Foundation to that. I was pleased earlier this month to see BHF employees in Manchester during the Conservative party conference, and I enjoyed looking at their stand and hearing at first hand about the high-quality research that the organisation is doing on cardiovascular diseases. The BHF’s research remains one of this country’s great success stories, and it has a long history going all the way back to the pioneering heart surgery technique for babies developed by Professor Sir Magdi Yacoub in the 1970s, which is still used today, all the way through to the more recent and ongoing improvements in heart attack diagnosis that are helping to save lives in Britain and across the world.
Research investment in medicine and cardiovascular disease is an important illustration of the strength of our science base. The investment we are making as a country through charities, Government and pharmaceutical companies is helping to ensure that Britain remains at the forefront of science and research in Europe and throughout the world. I should like to point out a few examples of that investment. The Medical Research Council currently spends around £20 million a year. That, coupled with the £49 million spent by the National Institute for Health Research, which is funded by the Department of Health, makes the UK the top contributor among EU member states to cardiovascular research. We are building on that base. This year, we committed to fund the Academy of Medical Sciences, alongside the other national academies, for the first time, granting it £0.5 million.
We are talking about what we are spending, but we are not talking about what we are saving. We are developing the life sciences, agritech—agritech is hugely important to rural constituencies such as mine, and my constituency is on the edge of the Cambridge phenomenon—biotech, digital health and so on, and we need to take those savings into consideration. If we lose that research abroad, we will lose the savings, too.
Indeed, this is a good investment, which is why the Government have been supporting our science base over time. We recognise the huge economic benefits that it brings to the country.
I was in the middle of describing the investments we are making in cardiovascular and other medical technologies research. We have supplemented the ongoing spending of the MRC and the NIHR by announcing a couple of new innovation institutions, which will be extremely helpful to the sector in developing new medical technologies. We have just announced a new medicines technologies catapult, which will be based at Alderley Park in Cheshire. We have also announced the headquarters of the new precision medicine catapult in Cambridge, which will have one of its five centres of excellence in the north of England. The hon. Member for Cambridge (Daniel Zeichner) focused on excellence in Cambridge. I am happy to tell him that I was in Cambridge last week and saw the laboratory of molecular biology. I was as impressed as his comments would have led me to expect—it is an extraordinary centre, and we have every intention of continuing to ensure that it remains one of the world’s leading research institutes.
The examples that Members have already cited, such as Cambridge and the scientific centres in the northern powerhouse, are good examples of why Britain is such a powerhouse in the world of science and why we want to ensure that we make Britain the best place in the world to do science. Our global scientific impact is completely out of proportion with both our population and the size of our research spend as a share of global research and development expenditure. The UK punches well above its weight.
Does the Minister agree that, although we are doing extremely well in science at the moment, there is concern in the scientific community that emerging markets in east Asia and India will overtake the UK’s scientific research if funding is not continued and increased?
We have discussed that question at great length in Select Committees and, of course, we understand that the impact of our science spend is a function both of the efficiency of our science base and of the inputs that go into it—the amount of money that we spend every year on science. The hon. Lady will recognise that we underscored our commitment to science in the last Parliament by ring-fencing expenditure at £4.6 billion at a time of discretionary savings across the rest of Government activity to the tune of £98 billion. Furthermore, she will know from our previous discussions and from Government documents that we have committed to a road map for capital expenditure all the way to 2021 to the tune of £1.1 billion per annum, which will give businesses, researchers and charities the certainty they need about the role that the Government intend to play in investing in our science base.
The Minister is right to sing the praises of our science community. We are a science superpower in terms of quality and impact, but the Science and Technology Committee has heard widespread concerns about time lag and how historical investment is perhaps leading to our current strength. Does he share the concerns expressed on both sides of the House about the low level of current R and D investment? Will he commit to a long-term plan to raise that investment?
I would not want to do that for obvious reasons. I do not agree with the generally pessimistic tone of my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford West and Abingdon, because investment in science is increasing. The Government play their part, but we should not forget the important part played by the business community in R and D, nor the part that R and D tax credits play in enabling business to make that supporting investment.
I told the Select Committee the other day that the value of our R and D tax credits has now increased to £1.8 billion a year, enabling more than 11,000 businesses to do innovative research. That is significantly up on the previous year, when the figure was only about £1.4 billion. The taxpayer is making a substantial contribution to enabling R and D in this country; business R and D expenditure is also up. In 2013, UK businesses spent a total of £18.4 billion on R and D, an increase of 8% in cash terms on 2012, so it is wrong to focus only on the Government’s share, which we protected in the last Parliament and for which we have outlined a trajectory to 2021 on the capital side. There will be a real-terms increase in capital spend. We are putting in place an ecosystem to make it possible for business and others to continue their investment.
The 3% target is an EU target that may or may not be relevant to the UK environment. Targets, in and of themselves, are abstract things. What is relevant is the policy levers that we have put in place to drive behavioural change in companies and charities in order to increase investment. A target in itself achieves nothing, and I do not want to indulge in such targets.
Does my hon. Friend recognise the capacity of British science to step up and increase the level of top-quality science? With 20% of excellent research grant applications currently being turned down, we have an opportunity in Britain to improve our productivity greatly over the next five years.
Indeed. Our science base is productive and very efficient. For every £1 the Government spend on R and D, private sector productivity rises by 20p a year in perpetuity. We see clear public benefits in R and D, and we appreciate the important role of public investment in crowding in private investment.
The Chancellor appreciates the importance of science. As I told the Select Committee the other day, it is hard to think of a Chancellor who has spent more time in lab coats and high-vis clothing than he has. He has revealed his preferences over his chancellorship by ring-fencing science over the last Parliament. We in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills are working hard to make the best possible case for science going into the spending review. Obviously, there are difficult decisions and a difficult settlement to be made, but science has a strong set of arguments to make, and we are reinforcing those arguments in our discussions with the Treasury.
Motion lapsed (Standing Order No. 10(6)).
Black History Month
[Ms Karen Buck in the Chair]
I beg to move,
That this House has considered Black History Month.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Buck. It is important that the House recognises Black History Month. I do not intend to take up too much time today, because I am conscious that other speakers will have far more to contribute.
Marking the month of October as Black History Month is a long-standing tradition that allows us to consider the vital contributions made to the UK’s culture and economy by ethnic minorities. Although I am not of ethnic minority origin, I represent many people from a range of backgrounds in my constituency. The same can be said for the vast majority of MPs—that is a testament to the success of our multicultural society. This year, 41 black and ethnic minority MPs were elected to Parliament. That is something to celebrate, but it is simply not enough. I believe that any Parliament should be representative of its people. When people see someone of their own race, colour, gender or sexuality in a position of power and influence, it lets them know that their opinions matter and that they, too, can achieve anything.
We must continue to strive for equality for everyone. We have a long way to go before men and women across the country are truly equal. We must continue to recognise Black History Month until we reach a point where everyone in society is equal, regardless of their race, colour, gender or sexuality. It is an opportunity to recognise the best and brightest people across the country who have experienced racism and overcome it. Overcoming racism is an incredible triumph, but they should not have experienced it and it is not something we should tolerate.
Black History Month has grown from its origins in the Harlem renaissance of the 1930s into an international institution. In 1976, the US Government expanded their existing informal tradition into Black History Month. President Gerald Ford set the tone of the event, urging Americans to
“seize the opportunity to honour the too often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavour throughout our history”.
So too is that relevant here. The United Kingdom adopted Black History Month in 1987, which has served to promote positive role models in the black community. Since then, the celebration of Black History Month has come to represent much more than its original purpose.
I am sure the hon. Lady recognises that Black History Month as a celebration is largely down to the endeavour of my predecessor as the Member of Parliament for Tottenham, who campaigned for many years for there to be a month in which we recognise black history.
Absolutely, and I thank the right hon. Gentleman for that statement.
The focus in the UK is on celebrating the contributions of all minority ethnic people in this country. Black History Month in the UK includes the history of African, Caribbean, middle eastern and Asian people. However, the sacrifices, contributions and achievements of those people are often mired in racism, inequality and injustice.
Fourteen years ago, Scotland adopted its own Black History Month. In 2001, Scotland was a changing place. This month is an opportunity to promote the contributions of black and minority ethnic Scots as part of a wide and diverse family, and we are proud to be a diasporic nation. With an increased number of people living in Scotland born abroad, minority ethnic groups represent 4% of Scotland’s population. That compares with a much higher number in England, where minority ethnic people make up 15% of the population. However, the census also showed that minority ethnic groups in Scotland were less likely to live in deprived areas than their counterparts in England.
The Scottish National party Government in Scotland have consistently promoted multiculturalism, believing that diversity is our strength. Scotland aspires to be a place where people from all backgrounds can live and raise their families, and where people from all ethnic backgrounds can achieve their potential. We are making progress, but there is a long way to go. Figures show that 61.7% of black and minority ethnic Scots are employed, compared with the national figure of 70.7%. Black and minority ethnic Scots are still under-represented at senior levels in the boardroom and in politics. In fact, of the 129 MSPs, only two are black or of an ethnic minority. I hope that the election in 2016, and future elections to this House will allow for greater ethnic diversity and minority representation.
The hon. Lady raises an important issue that has come up in the Labour party, but I wonder if she might say whether the SNP is prepared to accept positive discrimination. The presence of women in this Parliament is largely down to positive discrimination. There has been a lively debate in the Labour party. Are the Scots Nats getting to a place where they believe that, in order to see black and ethnic minority people come forward, it is about positive discrimination, not just hope?
I am sure the Scottish National party will be keen to promote all forms of equality across the board. We believe people should achieve their full potential, regardless of their gender, race or sexuality. We are proud to be a party that promotes that. However, we still have a long way to go, and the House has a long way to go before it represents British society.
There is a huge commitment to the minority ethnic population in Scotland. Black and Ethnic Minority Infrastructure in Scotland—BEMIS—was established in 2001, in the same year Scotland began its own Black History Month. The organisation represents and supports the development of the ethnic minority voluntary sector. It aims to empower ethnic minorities and to ensure they are fully recognised and supported as a valued part of Scottish multicultural society. Most importantly, BEMIS does not act simply as an embodiment but aims to reach out to every single sector of our minority population and ensure they are represented. Its core aim is to invest in grassroots parties and to make a difference at a local level.
I congratulate the hon. Lady on securing this important debate. Does she agree that local events such as the one in Oxford this coming Saturday are a very good opportunity for local communities and people of all backgrounds to celebrate the enrichment of our culture, economy and daily life by the heritage of minority communities? I also invite her to answer the question from my right hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy): does the Scottish National party favour positive discrimination?
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his question. As the spokesperson for equalities, women and children, I absolutely promote positive discrimination where necessary. However, such mechanisms alone do not tackle those problems. The barriers people face in their lives that prevent them from entering a political party or from aspiring to something greater are barriers we need to tackle at a grassroots level, and that will not be achieved by any one particular political party.
In terms of ethnic minority participation in apprenticeships, the figures in England show that, of the 15% target population, only 9% do apprenticeships. Training is an effective way out of poverty—a fact taken seriously by the Government, and one of the few policy areas on which I agree with the Prime Minister, who plans to introduce 3 million new apprenticeships by 2020. That is a huge target, and giving a helping hand to our young workforce is very welcome, but without a concentrated effort, I fear ethnic minority statistics will remain static and those who would benefit most from training will not be able to access apprenticeships.
Black History Month celebrates the very best of black and minority ethnic culture in this country, yet for many different sections of society, there is vast inequality. Twenty-eight years after the establishment of Black History Month in the UK, life is still more difficult for the black and ethnic minority community. Black History Month should allow us, as legislators, to consider the effects of our policies on ethnic minority communities and to remember the histories of the black and minority ethnic people in our constituencies and across the whole of society who we have been sent here to represent. We have a huge role to play in considering the policies that will shape Britain’s future, and this month we celebrate the diversity and richness of this multicultural society. I look forward to joining other Members of the House in celebrating this opportunity.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship for the first time, Ms Buck. I congratulate the hon. Member for Lanark and Hamilton East (Angela Crawley) on securing the debate. I applied for a debate on Black History Month and failed. I am very pleased that she was successful and that we are having this debate; otherwise we would not be marking Black History Month in Parliament this year, which would be a disgrace.
I am proud to stand here as a Member of Parliament of African heritage. My late father came to this country from Nigeria in the 1960s. I am proud to represent a constituency and a borough with one of the largest African and Caribbean populations in the country. I am one of three MPs who represent the Brixton area, which is often referred to as Britain’s black capital and is home of the Black Cultural Archives, of which I am a patron.
People often ask why so many people from Africa and the Caribbean settled in Brixton. Of course, the first wave of black immigrants arrived here from Jamaica in the late 1940s on the Empire Windrush, which arrived at Tilbury docks in Essex. Many new arrivals were first settled in the deep bomb shelters in Clapham South in Lambeth. The labour exchange, which we now call the jobcentre, was located on Coldharbour Lane in Brixton, which is why so many black people have settled in our area since. That point illustrates that the suggestion that we often read in the tabloid media and that emanates from certain political parties—the narrative that suggests that immigrants just want to come here to take advantage of our benefits system—is a complete myth. It is because black people were looking for work that they settled near that labour exchange in Brixton.
I agree with the hon. Gentleman that it is important to use the appropriate language to reflect the reality of the very positive contributions made by so many people who have come to our country. East Renfrewshire is one of the most diverse constituencies in Scotland. I am delighted to represent a constituency with such a rich heritage in so many ways. It is undeniable that that brings a huge amount to our society and our communities.
I could not agree more with the hon. Lady. Black History Month is important because it gives us the opportunity to celebrate not only the contribution of the Windrush generation, but further waves of immigration from west Africa, such as those of the ’60s and ’70s—when, as I have said, my father came here—and, more recently, those from Somalia and Eritrea. There are new burgeoning communities from those parts of the world in Lambeth.
The immense contribution of black people to this country’s society is unarguable. I think of people such as Kanya King, the founder of the MOBO—Music of Black Origin—awards. She was the youngest of nine children, left school when she was 16, became a single mum and ended up establishing one of the world’s leading music awards events, which is watched by more than 400 million people every year. I think of Mo Ibrahim, who came here from Sudan in 1974, started working as a BT engineer and ended up building the biggest telecommunications company that Africa has seen. I think of stars of screen and stage not just in the UK, but in Hollywood, such as my constituents, Doña Kroll, Ellen Thomas and, of course, David Harewood from the programme “Homeland”. I think of Dame Linda Dobbs, our first High Court judge of black origin. I think of all the black people in the country who are not famous and make an immense contribution to the life of the United Kingdom. Black History Month is very important, particularly so that the younger generations, who did not experience the struggle of people such as Bernie Grant to be given the same opportunities as everyone else in the country, remember their heritage and the struggles that went before.
As the hon. Member for Lanark and Hamilton East said, despite of all the progress, a glass ceiling undoubtedly still exists for black people in our country. I am not going to talk about all the inequalities in the criminal justice system and the fact that someone is more likely to be arrested, to be stopped and searched and, as we learned recently, to be tasered if they are of an African or Caribbean background. I just want to look at a few areas where I think the glass ceiling is particularly prominent and then point to some solutions. I used to be the shadow Secretary of State with responsibility for higher education. It is a disgrace that, out of 17,900 professors, just 85—less than 1%—are black, when we make up 4.6% of the population. That is shocking, particularly given that education is supposed to unlock the door of opportunity.
Look at our media, which does so much to shape perceptions of black people. There are hardly any non-white faces around the boardroom tables of our major broadcasters or publishing groups. There is just one ethnic minority editor of a national newspaper—Amol Rajan of The Independent. There are no others. Our corporate boards generally have an extreme lack of diversity when it comes to ethnicity. Yes, we have seen progress with the gender make-up of boards, but there is an extreme lack of ethnicity.
I look—dare I say it?—at our own labour movement. The trade union movement, of course, led the charge for the equalities legislation of the 1960s and 1970s, but there are no prominent general secretaries of colour. We have to address that. Of course, we cannot pass up the opportunity to mention the situation in the House, as the hon. Member for Lanark and Hamilton East said. It is fantastic that we now have 41 black and minority ethnic MPs in the House of Commons, which is up from 27, but we have just 12 black MPs when there should be 30.
We think of football as one field that acts as a trailblazer for representation. Around 30% of players in the Football League are from a BME background—mostly black—but there are hardly any people of colour in the boardrooms. Of the 92 managers in the premier league and the Football League divisions, just six are managers of colour. That is utterly appalling.
The question is what to do about that situation. Some say—and we always hear this argument when we are talking about equalities issues—that, “You have to appoint on merit. These issues shouldn’t impact on decisions made. We shouldn’t worry about these things.” If people are going to use that as an excuse, the logic follows that they are basically saying that the reason that we do not have sufficient representation in all those different fields is that there are not sufficient numbers of black people who merit appointment. That argument does not hold in 2015.
Our higher education institutions benefit from public funding. In the corporate sector, increasingly large corporates and business organisations are thinking, very carefully, who they procure to provide goods and services to their businesses and what their workforces look like. Organisations in the City are increasingly doing that. Almost all higher education institutions benefit from some form of public funding. Are the Government holding their feet to the fire on the lack of diversity, for example, among professorships?
Regarding our media and business organisations and their boards more generally, I congratulate the Government on the progress they have made on increasing the gender diversity on corporate boards, but now we need to see the same political will and determination used to improve the ethnic diversity of boards. Lord Davies, the Labour Lord who was commissioned to carry out the report on gender diversity on boards, will produce his final report on 29 October. What are the Government looking to do in respect of ethnic diversity? In addition, I would like to see some of our major trade unions implementing the kinds of positive action measures that we have implemented in the Labour party to ensure that people of colour are coming forward for elected office.
More generally, I welcome the fact that, to some extent, there is an arms race among our political parties to become the most diverse in the UK. That is a good thing, but we need to look further at implementing positive action measures to ensure that we get better representation in this place. My right hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy) has been leading the charge and arguing for change for more than a decade.
Returning to football, there has been a lively debate on whether the Rooney rule should be introduced here. I am not talking about Wayne, but Dan Rooney, an American football club owner who led the way to the creation of a rule in the US that stipulates that at least one non-white candidate must be interviewed when a manager’s job comes up. That has led to huge progress in the States.
In June, Greg Clarke, the chairman of the Football League, which does not include the premier league, tabled changes at the league’s annual general meeting, which comprises all the owners and people who head up the clubs, following an inquiry into the lack of representation among Football League managers. He proposed making it compulsory for clubs to interview at least one BAME candidate, where an application has been received, for all youth development roles requiring a minimum of a UEFA B coaching licence. The application of the rule to first team roles is to be piloted by five to 10 clubs. If that pilot works, the rule for youth development roles will be applied to first team manager roles 12 months later.
I congratulate the Football League—Greg Clarke deserves huge praise for his leadership—but what is the Premier League doing? It is the most high-profile football league in the country. I understand that, in order for the Premier League to make progress, it will need a pipeline coming from the Football League, but it is not enough for the Premier League to say, “We’re going to sit around and wait for the Football League to make progress before we apply ourselves to increasing diversity in the most famous and exciting league in the world.” If that measure produces fruit in the Football League, the Premier League should set the goal of introducing in or by 2020 the same Rooney-style rules that the Football League has said it will implement. That will represent real progress in football.
We should celebrate, but we should not be complacent as progress still needs to be made. I very much hope that, when Black History Month comes about next year, we will have this debate in the main Chamber of the House of Commons, which is where it should be taking place, given the huge contribution of African and Caribbean people to our country.
I thank the hon. Member for Lanark and Hamilton East (Angela Crawley) for securing this debate. Celebrating and raising awareness of black history through Black History Month has been shown to be urgently necessary in the light of the Prime Minister’s recent comments on slavery and reparations. I want to use my speech today to address this issue.
At the end of September, on the first visit to Jamaica by a UK Prime Minister in 14 years, the Prime Minister told the people of Jamaica in his speech to “move on from this painful legacy” of slavery. Such language is disgustingly insensitive and inexcusable. Britain has absolutely no authority to dismiss outright Jamaicans’ reactions to their history. The Prime Minister had the audacity to state of slavery:
“Britain is proud to have…led the way in its abolition”,
propagating a dangerous simplification of history, which is wrong. He inaccurately glorified Britain’s role in abolishing slavery, yet refused to address explicitly Britain’s leading role in the atrocity itself.
The Prime Minister stressed the relationship between Britain and Jamaica as friends since independence, but he failed to address the fact that the fundamental relationship between the two countries has been one of exploitation, which is what Jamaican Ministers were calling on him to address. Using the aid budget to provide locks and chains and presenting that as an act of generosity is insulting. Expressing sorrow over the slave trade, as Tony Blair did in 2006, is not enough. I call on the Government to apologise publicly and formally for the British slave trade. Britain should be accepting accountability, engaging in the reparations debate and providing infrastructure for growth, not for the incarceration of those formerly held in Britain.
The language and narrative of the Prime Minister’s speech and his outright rejection of reparations show a total lack of respect for and understanding of black history. It is totally at odds with the way that the tragedy of the holocaust has been dealt with—a tragedy that is ingrained in European social memory and embedded in the school curriculum. I do not believe for one second that the Prime Minister would have used the same language in a speech to the Jewish community. It is not my intention to rank oppressions; I simply wish to use a comparison to emphasise how unacceptable it is to tell formerly enslaved countries and colonies to move on from a legacy of horrific, state-sponsored, organised violence and exploitation.
We pride ourselves on being a multicultural country, which I am proud to be part of, yet black history remains on the periphery of British historical memory. That needs to change. Black history should be part of the school curriculum so that the young people coming up are aware of and proud of their history. Black people are still less represented in Parliament and positions of power. Black lives matter, not only here but internationally. Our lives are less valued than white lives. That needs to change. Structural inequalities and everyday racism remain as a result of the legacy of slavery. That must be addressed. Openly acknowledging the existence of lasting inequalities and accepting the historical role of the Government in propagating them is the first stage that will help to change the relationship and the power dynamics.
I thank Members for their attendance, but have to second the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr Umunna): this debate should be taking place in the main Chamber, not on the sides, to give it the respect it warrants.
I am grateful for the opportunity to speak under your chairmanship for the first time, Ms Buck. You have made a considerable contribution to the lives of black and ethnic minorities in your constituency over many years and to the broader debate within the Labour party, and you continue to do so. I congratulate the hon. Member for Lanark and Hamilton East (Angela Crawley) on securing this debate. I thank her for the manner in which she delivered her opening remarks and for all that she is doing north of the border.
I have a short opportunity to put on the record once again the work of my predecessor, Bernie Grant. Activists and campaigners are perhaps more prominent now than they have been in the past, particularly with the selection of my hon. Friend the Member for Islington North (Jeremy Corbyn) as the leader of the Labour party. He knows that campaigning and work often take place at the margins, with very few people paying attention and listening. For many mornings over many years, Bernie Grant campaigned outside the British Museum about the artefacts sitting inside that had been effectively stolen from Africa. He raised the issue consistently, day after day, with no one paying attention. There is now a lively debate on outreach and how to support museums and communities in Africa and the developing world, which is now a very real subject.
My predecessor campaigned for years to introduce these subjects to our national curriculum, and we have made progress. When I was a Culture Minister, I made the decision to introduce the abolition of slavery from the perspective of not only William Wilberforce, but Equiano and others, to the national curriculum, but we need to do more to ensure that our national curriculum tells a rich and complex story about the contribution of both different parts of the British Isles and the Commonwealth.
Many young people do not know that more than 1 million Indian young men died on behalf of this country in the first world war. They do not know that 200,000 young men from the Caribbean died contributing to this country in the same conflict or that, across the Commonwealth, people signed up to come to this country and other parts of Europe and gave up their lives. That is a rich story, and it illustrates why Black History Month is not just a moment when black and brown children in inner-city schools can focus on these issues; it is a national moment when all children in our country, whatever their background, draw inspiration from these stories and reflect on that coming together and those trials and tribulations.
I echo the right hon. Gentleman’s sentiments about the soldiers from across the world who came to serve with forces from the UK; as the Scottish National party spokesperson on the armed forces and veterans, I associate myself with what he says. I also wish our children to be as aware as possible of our diverse communities in Scotland and the UK and of the rich contribution they have all made.
I am grateful for the hon. Lady’s words. Globally, we reflect on these huge heroes of black history. Of course, I think of Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and Rosa Parks, but this is also a moment to think of our homebred heroes such as Paul Stephenson, who organised the boycott of the Bristol buses because of their refusal in 1955 to employ anyone of a black background; that contributed to our getting the Race Relations Act 1965. This year, we celebrate 50 years since that Act was passed, and I hope Parliament will celebrate that occasion appropriately.
All those contributions led to a place in which my father, like the father of my hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr Umunna), arrived in this country as part of the Windrush generation. Those were very different times, and my father would be proud to see me standing here—he is not alive today. That generation made a contribution, and the fight continues. We do not stand still, and huge challenges remain in these tough economic times.
We have heard about the tremendous challenges that exist in our boardrooms. Across the country there is a lack of diversity for black and ethnic minority people at the higher echelons of our companies, which is an issue. Progress was being made in the public sector, particularly in local government and the NHS, but to some extent that progress has stalled. My predecessor, Bernie Grant, was the leader of Haringey Council before becoming the Member of Parliament for Tottenham. We do not see that leadership replicated in the same way these days, although I recall that Muhammed Butt is the leader of Brent Council here in London.
Progress needs to be made in the judiciary and our universities. It is great to see Valerie Amos appointed the director of the School of Oriental and African Studies, adding to the panel of vice chancellors, but there is a considerable amount still to do. As you know, Ms Buck, there remain real issues in mental health and in relation to deaths in police custody. There are also real issues for young people in London, particularly given the unemployment figures.
This is a moment to celebrate, but it is also a moment to redouble our efforts. We must recognise and celebrate 50 years of the Race Relations Act, but we need to ensure that race remains on the agenda and that we do not just talk about diversity and equality but recognise that discrimination exists and that we have to act to address that discrimination. That sometimes means positive discrimination, but it also means that people’s right to challenge in court and elsewhere must be ensured in future.
I was expecting to be the last speaker, so I might be a little all over the place. I had a prepared speech last time I responded to a debate, but now I will try to respond to what other Members have said.
It is a privilege to speak about Black History Month, a month when we in the UK join together in celebrating and valuing the countless inspirational individuals and historic achievements of our black and minority ethnic communities. Since its British incarnation was launched in 1987, Black History Month has addressed a disgraceful blind spot in our national story: the contribution of people from BME backgrounds. There are events highlighting inspiring figures from the BME community who fought injustice and inequality over many years and in different times and places. It is wrong that we should need Black History Month, and the sooner we start honestly portraying our shared history, the less likely it will be that white children will grow up believing that everything happened because of their forefathers and foremothers, and the greater our chances will be of genuine racial integration. When that happens, when we all just see each other as people and when we accept that in history, as today, we all contributed and we all contribute to the development of this country and to the world, we will not need Black History Month.
In addition to its political side, Black History Month has a vital creative element, with the arts being used to tell some of the stories that we want people to hear. I loved “Record Breakers” as a child, and it horrifies me that there are people here who will not know what I am talking about. [Interruption.] The Minister should not pretend not to remember it. I always wanted to be a record breaker. That is perhaps why, in October 2012, my Jamaican partner and I organised 17 Black History Month events. It was exhausting, but I had a ball because, as well as history lectures and political debates, we had reggae, dancehall and soca nights, African films, Jamaican food and football games.
On football, I wonder how many people know the name of the Scotland footballer who captained the team when they beat England 6-1 in 1881 down the road at the Oval in Kennington. He captained the team on two more occasions, beating Wales 5-1 and, the following year, beating England again, this time only 5-1. I appreciate that it was a long time ago, but allow me to revel in it and to share the final sentence of the match report:
“In the ten matches now played, the Scotch have kicked 34 goals and the English 20.”
The captain of the team was an impressive chap in that he was not only a skilled sportsman but a marine engineer and a successful businessman. Given that this was the 1800s, he surely accomplished more than enough to be held up as a historical role model, yet until recently few people knew the name of Andrew Watson.
Andrew Watson was the Caribbean-born son of a Scottish slave owner. I have not been able to establish whether his mother was a slave or a free woman, but she was a Caribbean woman. The point of that story is that many children came from a slave and slave owner relationship. Many people in Scotland, including people with Scottish surnames, have ancestors who came from the Caribbean.
If the hon. Lady will indulge me, I am one of those people of Caribbean descent who took a DNA test a few years ago. I found out that part of my ancestry is indeed Scottish. How proud I was to find out that, like Bob Marley, I have Scottish genes running through me!
In that case, I would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman which team he would have supported in that 1881 football game.
I will turn to the slave trade in a little more detail later, but I absolutely concur with one comment from the hon. Member for Edmonton (Kate Osamor), who said that an apology is needed from not just the British Government, but the Government in Scotland, for the involvement of all parts of the country in what happened. Like her, I was also outraged when the Prime Minister told Jamaicans to move on.
I was in London during the summer, and I got caught up in a whole load of crowds and traffic. An annual event seemed to be taking place to celebrate—or certainly to mark—the bombing of another country. If we are not going to move on from such things, I do not see why Jamaicans should move on from thinking about this terrible time in their history, which impacts on their country today and will continue to do so until they get the reparations the hon. Lady spoke of.
I want to say a little about the wonderful Mary Seacole. For the life of me, I cannot understand why she is not at least as revered as Florence Nightingale. She was Jamaican born and half-Scottish. She was born Mary Grant, and Grant is one of the names in my family, so I am going to take some of the credit—no, I cannot. She did what women did not do in the 19th century: she travelled, she ran a business and she went to war. When she faced racism—and she did—she did not back down; she continued to risk her life to help others. How did she do that? She went to the Crimean war, and she risked her life helping soldiers—they called her “Mother Seacole”. She applied to be one of Florence Nightingale’s nurses, but was turned down. We know a little more about her now, but it astonishes me that I had not heard of her until four years ago. She is a bit of a hero of mine now, but why did I have to seek her out? I found out about her at a Black History Month event, which is why I think such months are so important.
I want to say a little about someone who is less of an historical figure—he will be pleased to hear me say that if he is listening—and more of a current figure. Professor Sir Geoff Palmer is absolutely passionate about bringing black history to the masses. He is Jamaican born—I appreciate that there are other nationalities, although we seem to be a bit obsessed with Jamaica today. He has lived in Scotland for the past 50 years and has become one of the top professors of brewing science—in other words, he teaches Scottish people how to make the best whisky. He is also the author of a number of books, including one called “Citizens of Britishness”. In it, he talks about the importance of education. He says that if children learned from an early age that the development of our country and our world was down to not just white people, but absolutely everybody, they might not see themselves as different from children in their class who have a different skin colour. I encourage people to read that book.
I want to come back to some of the things that other Members have said. I have not congratulated my hon. Friend the Member for Lanark and Hamilton East (Angela Crawley) on securing the debate, so I do so now. She said that 41 MPs are from a BME background, and the hon. Member for Streatham (Mr Umunna) said that 12 are of African or Caribbean heritage. I agree with them both that that is not enough. Both spoke about BME people being under-represented and about there being a glass ceiling. However, there are a number of glass ceilings, which are sometimes pretty low, and it is difficult to break through them. There is lots of evidence to back that up—I am going to give anecdotal evidence, but I would not like anyone to think that there is not actual evidence.
I have a Cameroonian friend, and she is an incredible person. She is extremely articulate and very intelligent. She held down a really senior job in Cameroon, and she speaks about seven languages fluently. One day, she went into two temp agencies. Hon. Members will know the kind I mean—the ones with the posters in the window saying, “400 typists needed” or “25 telephonists needed”. There were posters all over the windows of these agencies, so my friend went in. Both of them said, “No, we don’t have any jobs,” when they clearly did. She said, “Could you put me on a waiting list for when you do?” They said, “No. We don’t have a waiting list. It’s closed.” The glass ceiling is not necessarily all that high, and it is difficult for people to break through.
The right hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy) spoke of the contribution of people from India, the Caribbean and other places to the British armed forces. People need to know that we white people, on our own, did not go round the world winning all these wars or bringing progress. That is a really important point.
To come back to the Caribbean slave trade, we in Scotland once tended to believe—I will blame this on the lack of education in the whole of Britain at the time—that we did not really have anything to do with the slave trade, that it was the English who were responsible and that we did not have any choice. It turns out that that is not true. It has come to light, however, that Scottish people are happy to face up to their past and want to know the truth about it. Professor Sir Geoff Palmer had a lot to do with bringing the issue to the fore. However, a historian by the name of Stephen Mullen also wrote a book about it. Its title—I do not know how many Members here have been to Glasgow, so I do not know how many will understand this—was “It Wisnae Us”. In other words, the Scottish thought they had nothing to do with slavery, although that is not true.
Two years ago, I was at a talk by Professor Sir Geoff Palmer. He was talking about compensation payments after the slave trade ended—again, this is something I did not know about. I was thinking, “How could you ever compensate somebody for having to live as a slave?”, but I suddenly realised that it was not the slaves who were being compensated, but the slave owners. I was absolutely horrified. Professor Palmer told us that Scotland made up 9% of the population of Britain at the time, but took 16% of the compensation package, which shows how enmeshed in the slave trade Scotland was. Books such as “It Wisnae Us” help us to face up to that.
Much as I love Black History Month, I cannot wait for there to be no need for it. I love history, but I do not want to read about black history. I just want to know our history—to have an honest assessment of our past, not a spin-doctored version where everyone who is not white is airbrushed out of existence. I want an honest history. We are all grown up now. Surely we can face up to the bits of our past that we are not so proud of. Surely we do not have to take the credit for absolutely everything.
As I said at the start, I really look forward to the day when Black History Month does not exist, because that will be the day when we are all equal, and our forebears are celebrated equally, regardless of skin colour, religion or gender. That is not the case right now.
As women, we often feel we are offered fewer role models than men, and nobody seriously argues that that is because women contribute less. It should be alarming to all of us that black children can go through school believing that all our heroes, inventors, revolutionary leaders and significant historical figures were white. What must it do to a child’s self-esteem to see no role models who look like them? How must it feel to be led to believe that even the black struggles and the black victories were really led by white people? I mentioned the example of the abolition of the slave trade. White people may have assisted in that, but it was the black slaves who freed themselves. Black History Month simply shines a light on that and other lies. As I said, I look forward to the day when we do not have to be disabused of the notions I have described because they will have long since left our history books.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairship, Ms Buck, and I congratulate the hon. Member for Lanark and Hamilton East (Angela Crawley) on securing this important debate.
I want to mention some of the speeches that have been made. My hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr Umunna) made some important points about the glass ceiling that black and minority ethnic people face. He raised issues about higher education institutions and the lack of diversity among professors, and that is incredibly important. The Government should take action and call on all the universities that take public funding to address the issue as a priority. I join my hon. Friend in congratulating Greg Clarke and the Football League on their excellent work to try to increase diversity in the league. They set a great example to encourage premier league clubs to follow suit.
My hon. Friend the Member for Edmonton (Kate Osamor) made a lovely speech and raised the important issue of slavery, a shameful chapter in Britain’s history, in which the port of Lancaster in my constituency played a significant role. I try to be very aware of that in the work I do. I hope that future chapters in the book of the history of Britain will make amends for the role that we played in the international slave trade.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy) has long been a campaigner for race equality, following in the footsteps of his predecessor, Bernie Grant, who was a pioneer at a time when black people did not have it easy. He led the way and was a shining example to everyone. I hope he is an inspiration to many young people today, who can look to figures like him and the hon. Members present in the Chamber to show that no door should be closed to them. I thank my right hon. Friend for reminding us of the role that Commonwealth countries played in the first world war, and of the fact that it is 50 years since the Race Relations Act 1965 was passed. My goodness, we still have a long way to go.
I also thank the hon. Member for Glasgow North East (Anne McLaughlin) for the lovely compliment she paid me as she looked at me when asking whether anyone would remember “Record Breakers”. I must look younger than I am, because it finished airing in 2001, so I do remember it, and I enjoyed it very much. I am not that young.
It is often said that history is written by the victors. I certainly heard a lot about that when I was growing up, as my father was an enthusiastic lover of history. History is written by dead white men, because they were the people who had power and who wrote it down. Black History Month therefore offers an opportunity to learn more about history that has not been recorded and that is not talked about in the same way that the dead-white-men history is written about. We rightly celebrate many victories and achievements, but, sadly, the legacy of racism and discrimination remain in too many areas of public life today. The stories of many of those who fought for the advances that have been made have not yet been told properly, so Black History Month is as vital for children in schools as it is for Members of Parliament, to enable us to learn about the communities we represent.
I want to play particular attention today to the contribution that black and ethnic minority communities have made to the labour movement. The Labour party and the wider labour movement can be proud when it comes to fighting racism and discrimination.
Sitting suspended for Divisions in the House.
Labour Members took a leading role in the anti-colonial campaigns in the first half of the 20th century and in the anti-apartheid campaigns more recently. Labour Governments introduced the Race Relations Act 1968, the Race Relations Act 1976 and the Equality Act 2010 to ensure that all our communities receive equal treatment under law.
There are, however, episodes in our history of which we must be sadly less proud, particularly from the first half of the 20th century, when many black and ethnic minority workers were not welcomed into the labour movement in the way that they should have been. I therefore pay tribute to those who stood up for their rights and successfully changed attitudes and transformed the labour movement into the proudly anti-racist movement that we have today, although there is, as Members have mentioned, some work to do in respect of representation among its leadership.
Those who stood up for their rights include the black workers in Cardiff who formed the Coloured Seamen’s Union in 1936 to fight against the operation of the colour bar in Cardiff docks. The Indian Workers’ Association was also formed around that time in Coventry. It fought not only against racism, but for better employment rights and Indian independence.
In Bristol in the 1960s, black communities boycotted bus services owing to the refusal of the Bristol Omnibus Company to employ black or Asian bus crews. The boycott lasted four months and forced the company to back down and overturn its colour bar. In 1972, Pakistani workers at Crepe Sizes Ltd in Nottingham went on strike over working conditions, redundancies and pay. They were supported by the local community and won union recognition and the reinstatement of workers made redundant.
More well known is the 1976 strike at Grunwick by Asian and West Indian women who walked out owing to poor working conditions and attempts to cut pay. Although the strike was ultimately unsuccessful, it represented one of the first times that a dispute affecting BME workers received the mass support of the trade union movement, with electrical workers, miners, electricians and Post Office workers all backing the strike.
Those episodes represent just a fraction of the contribution that BME workers have made to the labour movement during the 20th century. Those workers not only improved their own lives and those of their communities, but they transformed the labour movement into a more inclusive movement that today has equality at its heart. We owe all of those workers a huge debt of gratitude and we must learn from their example to address the challenges we face. It is shameful that, earlier this month, we learned that black people are three times more likely to have a Taser used against them than white people. It cannot be right that the number of black and Asian workers in low-paid jobs increased by 12.7% between 2011 and 2014 compared with a 1.8% rise for white workers in the same period.
As a society, we need to show solidarity and stand shoulder to shoulder with those fighting injustices today. I look forward to hearing the stories of victories over such forms of discrimination in Black History Months to come.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Buck. I congratulate the hon. Member for Lanark and Hamilton East (Angela Crawley) on securing this important debate on Black History Month. We have had a very good and passionate debate.
Black History Month is an opportunity for us to celebrate the UK’s African, Caribbean and Asian communities and the enormous contribution they have made to our country. It is right that we should use Black History Month to look at the part that black people have played in shaping history. Too often, it is a part that has been ignored or forgotten. We remember the huge number of people from Africa, the Caribbean and Asia who gave their lives fighting for this country in the first and second world wars. Our commemorations of the centenary of the first world war rightly mark the contribution and sacrifice of thousands of men and women from across the Commonwealth.
We remember the bravery of Walter Tull, a black British footballer who played for Tottenham and Northampton. He was a soldier who died in 1918 in France and the first black officer to lead white British soldiers into battle. We also remember Eugent Clarke from Jamaica, who fought at the battle of the Somme, and Khudadad Khan VC, born in what is now Pakistan, who was the first Indian army recipient of the Victoria Cross. And we remember others who fought together, fell together, and together defended the freedoms that we enjoy today.
We remember that, after the second world war, people from across the Commonwealth helped to rebuild our country. Many people came here with nothing, but they and their descendants have built successful and prosperous lives here in Britain. Today, we can claim to be a successful multi-ethnic and multi-faith country. In recent years, members of African, Caribbean and Asian communities have made their way to the top in many different areas: in business, in sport, in the arts, in Government, and in the House. I am thinking of people such as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills and President of the Board of Trade—I had the pleasure of being his Parliamentary Private Secretary in the previous Parliament. I am thinking of the right hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy), who has taken part in the debate, and the hon. Members for Streatham (Mr Umunna) and for Edmonton (Kate Osamor), who are also in the Chamber.
Despite the strides that we have made in recent years, we know there is a long way to go, as hon. and right hon. Members have said in the debate. The Government want to create a genuine opportunity country, where ethnic origin and background are not allowed to become a barrier to getting to the top. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minster recently pointed out, opportunity does not mean much if someone is facing discrimination or inequality—for example, when they do not get called for an interview because they have an ethnic-sounding name on their CV.
This December is the 50th anniversary of the Race Relations Act 1965, the historic legislation that opened the way to all subsequent equalities legislation. We can all be proud of the UK’s world-class equalities legislation, but we know that, on its own, it is not enough. We must all champion equality and recognise and challenge discrimination.
We have set some ambitious goals to improve opportunity for black and minority ethnic people in our 2020 vision. We aim to get a 20% increase in black and minority ethnic people in employment. We want 20% more black and minority ethnic people going to university, 20% more taking up apprenticeships and up to 20% more entering our police forces and armed services. Those are stretching and challenging targets, but we are determined to do all that we can to meet them.
[Nadine Dorries in the Chair]
The employment rate for black and minority ethnic groups is at a record high of 61.4%. Half a million more people from ethnic minorities are in work in Great Britain than in 2010. That is an increase of around 20% in the past five years, but we must go much further. That is why we have made a commitment to increase BME employment by a further 20% by 2020. That challenge is critical to achieving our full employment objective, ensuring that British business makes the most of the talent and potential that exists in all communities in the UK.
The Minister is talking about the targets to have more people from BME backgrounds employed, but the forthcoming Immigration Bill will make that difficult. If an employer is not sure whether someone is British, it will make it more difficult for anyone who might not look British, sound British, or have a British-sounding name to get employment and somewhere to live. Does he agree that that will not help him to reach those targets?
I note what the hon. Lady says. Further on in my speech, I will come to the measures that the Government are taking to support people to ensure they get into higher education and have the opportunities to get the skills to get the best jobs in the country. I will come to the points that she makes in a moment.
People from all communities want the police to fight crime while having confidence that their individual needs will be understood and respected. That is fair and effective policing. Police forces that reflect the communities they serve are crucial to cutting crime in a modern diverse society. The police have made real improvements in diversity and there are now more women and black and minority ethnic officers than ever before, but we are clear that forces need to do more. Police and crime commissioners and the College of Policing will play a key role in ensuring improvements in forces. New entry routes to policing are proving attractive, and are increasing the diversity of the police workforce.
Many black and Asian performers have excelled in the arts, but we are continuing to keep the spotlight on the main broadcasters and creative industries—the hon. Member for Streatham mentioned that. The Minister for Culture and the Digital Economy has been championing black and ethnic minority representation in the media. All the major broadcasters, along with the Arts Council and the British Film Institute, have launched projects to promote diversity in the past 18 months.
I agree with the hon. Lady’s sentiment.
Moving on to the questions that hon. Members asked, the hon. Member for Lanark and Hamilton East mentioned apprenticeships. As I said earlier, the Government have ambitious plans to increase the number of apprenticeships available to black and minority ethnic people by 20% by the end of this Parliament. I can tell the hon. Member for Streatham that the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has a high-level action plan for how to increase the number of apprentices from BAME backgrounds. I am sure that the Department will work hard during this Parliament to fulfil the Prime Minister’s obligation. The hon. Gentleman also quite rightly mentioned stop and search, and the Home Secretary has been absolutely clear that no one should be stopped on the basis of their race or ethnicity alone. The Government have therefore revised the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 regulations to prevent unnecessary stop-and-search procedures.
The hon. Gentleman also rightly discussed football coaching and management, an area where black and ethnic minority people have been under-represented, unlike among the players themselves. He mentioned Greg Clarke, not my esteemed right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, but the chairman of the Football League. I welcome its work on this important issue and hope that that will spur the Football Association on to greater work. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor set out in December 2014 plans to invest £2 million a year for the next five years in football coaching and grassroots development. To be fair to the FA, it is matching that funding and setting up bursary schemes to fund qualifications with specific targets for female coaches and coaches from the black and ethnic minority community. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will be pleased to hear that.
I agree with the Minister about what the Football League is doing, but the league that everyone knows and talks about the most, the premier league, is where we ultimately have to ensure that we see action. Chris Hughton, as the manager of Newcastle United, was I think the last black manager in the premier league, but since then there has been none.
I completely agree with the hon. Gentleman. The premier league is the biggest and most recognisable league in the world. I accept what he said about the Football League and the lead that it has taken. I am sure that the FA will be listening to what has been said in this debate about what the Football League has done and I hope that it will look intently at the lead that it has taken.
Several Members, including the hon. Member for Lancaster and Fleetwood (Cat Smith), the Opposition spokeswoman, mentioned higher education. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has been successful in supporting participation in higher education by young people from ethnic minorities, with entry rates for English 18-year-old state pupils rising in every ethnic minority group. That said, far more still needs to be done, but we aim to continue that improvement as part of our 2020 vision. Universities plan to spend over £745 million on measures to improve access and success for students from disadvantaged backgrounds, and we sincerely hope that many young people from ethnic minority groups will gain entry to university as a result.
In response to the contribution from the hon. Member for Edmonton, I reassure her that the Government absolutely deplore the human suffering caused by slavery. There can be no doubt that the chapters relating to the slave trade are among the most dishonourable and abhorrent in the history of humanity. We regret and condemn the historical slave trade and slavery. They were shameful events that rightly belong in the past. I completely understand the hon. Lady’s points. We can certainly agree that the horror of the slave trade should never be forgotten. She will probably know that the Prime Minister learned from the past before looking to the future when we introduced the Modern Slavery Bill in the previous Parliament, in particular to try to prevent people trafficking today. The Prime Minister cares deeply about the subject and has transformed my party’s representation on our Benches in terms of not only gender but ethnicity. We should celebrate that and his 2020 pledges.
The right hon. Member for Tottenham commented on council leadership. It is quite rightly down to political parties to do more to ensure that more local authority leaders are from black and minority ethnic communities.
In her contribution, the hon. Member for Glasgow North East (Anne McLaughlin), the SNP spokeswoman, alluded to the fact that I am old enough to remember “Record Breakers”. I certainly am, but I am old enough to remember the Roy Castle and Norris McWhirter version—
I am sure the hon. Lady knows exactly who they were! They were great people who are unfortunately no longer with us. The hon. Member for Lancaster and Fleetwood mentioned the 2001 version of “Record Breakers”, and Kriss Akabusi and Linford Christie, the Great British black Olympians, were actually presenters during its last few series. I remember watching it many years ago, and I think I remember seeing several episodes in which they made a fantastic contribution.
Moving back to football, the hon. Member for Glasgow North East mentioned Andrew Watson, whose story contains valuable lessons. I am glad to say that I am not old enough to remember when Scotland used to beat England by five or six goals to one on a regular basis. As a proud England supporter, I hope that that does not happen during my lifetime. The hon. Lady was also among several Members who referred to Mary Seacole, and I join them in paying tribute to her. My Department now shares lodgings with the Home Office and the three wings of the building are named after three great figures from British history: Robert Peel, the former Home Secretary; Elizabeth Fry, the great prison reformer; and Mary Seacole. So my colleagues and I are reminded of Mary Seacole every day when we go into the Department for Communities and Local Government.
I again thank the hon. Member for Lanark and Hamilton East for securing this important debate on Black History Month. I am delighted that it has given Members an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of Britain’s black communities. I take on board the comment that it would be good to have this debate in the main Chamber. That is obviously a job for Mr Speaker and his office, or for the Government at the time, but I would certainly welcome the opportunity to respond to a debate on the Floor of the House, if that were to happen.
We should celebrate the contribution of Britain’s black communities and remember the part that they have played in building what is becoming a successful multi-ethnic society. I pay tribute to the contribution and sacrifice of so many African, Caribbean and Indian people in the two world wars. As a Government, we reiterate our commitment to bringing an end to discrimination and to building a society in which there is real opportunity for all.
Question put and agreed to.
That this House has considered Black History Month.
Accessible Toilet Availability
I beg to move,
That this House has considered accessible toilet availability for disabled adults and children.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Dorries, and to have the opportunity to discuss the thorny issue of accessible toilets for disabled or incontinent adults and older children in general, as well as the Changing Places campaign in particular. I will take this opportunity to explain a little about what that campaign is all about and reflect on why it is needed, as well as on the tremendous, world-leading success we have already in Britain. I will discuss how it fits into a broader strategy on accessible tourism and its untapped economic potential, and then make a specific request for the Government to consider.
I was grateful to learn that today’s debate would be a good while after people had eaten their lunch. This is not the most edifying of subjects, but perhaps it is appropriate that we should all feel a little uncomfortable while considering the daily indignities that incontinent adults and children, and their parents and carers, are forced to suffer.
I pay particular tribute to Jane Carver and Gillian Scotford, campaigners from my constituency who are doing tremendous work to raise the profile of accessible tourism and of Changing Places toilets. I will discuss that in more detail later. I also acknowledge the work of Mencap in campaigning for an increase in the number of Changing Places toilets, and the work of the British Toilet Association and the wider Changing Places consortium, which includes the Centre for the Accessible Environment and PAMIS—the Profound and Multiple Impairment Service.
This agenda is important not just because of human dignity but because of the huge strain that is put on the families of disabled older children and young adults. We should all be aware of the many challenges they face. Parents of disabled children are more likely to separate or divorce than the average. They live in an era when the support that was once there for families through embattled social services departments has shrunk, and respite care is scarce. On top of all those challenges, the parents of disabled or incontinent children face the additional weekly strain on the rest of their families of having a child who demands more attention than other children, with all the pressure that will bring.
Families with incontinent children have to organise all family outings around being able to have access to a toilet every two hours or so. It is impossible to overestimate the extent to which consideration of access to toilets is a dominant factor for someone with an incontinent child or adult in their family unit. Before every outing, those families have to consider how long they will be able to go until they need to change their loved one, and what the facilities will be like when they are out. Barely a single family affected will have avoided the experience of changing an adult or large child on a dirty toilet floor. Having to lie on a toilet floor as an adult or large child, being changed like a baby, is unimaginable for most of us, yet that is what life was routinely like for those families before Changing Places toilets.
This is a delicate but important issue. Although we are in a time of financial restraint—we are all aware of that, across the whole of the United Kingdom—does the hon. Gentleman agree that it is important that people with physical disabilities are not disadvantaged, however that may be, by financial restraints, and that the Government must be committed to delivering services for them across the whole country? It is important that we do not let those services disappear into the ether of financial restraints.
I agree entirely—that is precisely why I wanted to have the debate. We can and will have broader discussions in the House and in the other place about the extent to which the Government fulfil the test the hon. Gentleman has set. In that regard, delivering those services is vital. I intend to make the case today that not only do we have a moral obligation to get this right, but there are arguments that doing so is in Britain’s economic interests.
Before there were Changing Places toilets, families were routinely forced to face the circumstances that I described, and, to expand on the point I was just making, child health experts have also spoken about the impact of inadequate toileting provision, with children or adults presenting with infections, skin disorders and mental health problems linked to urinal and faecal incontinence. We should be in no doubt that there is a significant cost to the Government, through increased healthcare costs, in continuing to fail these people and their families.
Changing Places criteria mean that toilet buildings are designed to have more room for equipment for people with multiple disabilities or people who need help to use the toilet. Each Changing Places toilet has a height-adjustable, adult-sized changing bench and a ceiling hoist and has enough space for a disabled person and two carers. Each is a safe and clean environment that includes a large bin and a non-slip floor. Changing Places toilets are utilised by and would make a difference to around 250,000 people in the UK. However, if we consider the impact that the lack of those facilities has on their family members, around 1 million people are affected.
I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing this important short debate, which focuses on this key issue. I join him in congratulating those campaigners, such as Lorna Fillingham in my constituency, for the work that they have done to support the Changing Places campaign, which is so important.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right to give credit to those organisations and individuals, many of whom have fought very bravely for that. The Changing Places consortium, which I mentioned, involving PAMIS and a number of organisations coming together to work collectively, has made a really powerful case, which is why we have we have seen the progress that we have.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for allowing this intervention, and I congratulate him on securing this debate, but I would like to take this opportunity to share some sad news. Loretto Lambe, the founder of PAMIS, sadly passed away at the weekend, following a long illness. The disabled community will know of Loretto’s passionate and tireless campaigning for disability rights. Although Loretto officially retired last summer, it is to her great credit that she continued her work right up to the end of her life. I am sure the House will join me in paying tribute to Loretto’s work and in passing on our condolences to Loretto’s husband, James, and her family.
I am very glad that the hon. Lady was able to pay that tribute. She is absolutely right to say that the contribution that Loretto made is gratefully reflected on by people right across the country, and we all mourn her passing.
Let me remind the House of the number of people affected: there are 250,000 such people in the UK, and if we take into account their family members, too, that number rises to 1 million people. There also around 900,000 children—most of whom would not be included in the original figures—who are diagnosed as having continence problems, many of whom would not be considered disabled, but none the less require appropriate space for changing. What those numbers tell us, apart from simply the scale of the problem and the health-related cost implications, is the huge potential tourism market available to venues that are accessible to disabled people—not to mention the moral obligation that we have as a civilised society to disabled people and their families. The case for having Changing Places toilet provision as widely available as possible is utterly compelling.
Before I go on to talk about what more can be done to further the case for Changing Places toilet provision, it is worth reflecting for a moment on the successes that campaigners have already achieved in Britain.
I briefly mention that even ordinary toilets are under threat within local government areas. With an ageing population and more people with stomas and other problems of urinary or faecal support, I think the numbers that would be affected by high-quality toilets are even greater.
The hon. Lady makes an incredibly important point. The impact of local authority budget cuts on this and a huge number of other areas is something we return to time and again within the political arena. I thank her for making that point.
As I was saying, it is worth reflecting for a moment on the successes. Britain leads the world in provision of this sort; in no other country is the scale of provision of this kind of facility as advanced as it is here. The Prime Minister spoke today of the pride that we should feel in what we do for disabled people in this country. Although in some areas, that is questionable, huge strides have been made in our country, with legislative victories such as the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and subsequently the Equality Act 2010. The progress on Changing Places means that we can justifiably argue that Britain is the leading disability-friendly holiday destination in the world.
We now have 770 Changing Places toilets in Britain, including 18 in Derbyshire. I would like to take a moment to highlight the work of Accessible Derbyshire, a ground-breaking charity with a mission to make Derbyshire the most disability-friendly county in Britain. It works with local tourist hotspots to advise them on what more they can do to make their offer more accessible and it promotes those organisations on its website, which means that any families with disabled people can learn more about what Derbyshire has to offer.
In Derbyshire, we are of course spoilt for great tourist destinations, from the world-famous Crooked Spire church in Chesterfield—where, among other things, I was married—to Chatsworth house, which is one of the most visited tourist destinations outside London. We have other great country houses like Hardwick hall and Bolsover castle, and, of course, the majesty of the Peak district on our doorsteps. However, even a county not so naturally blessed as we are in Derbyshire must be able to see the huge potential that exists.
The more arithmetically talented Members will have observed that with 770 different Changing Places toilets, there is an average of just over one toilet per parliamentary constituency. I am proud to say that in Chesterfield we have four Changing Places toilets—at the Queen’s Park sports centre, the Chesterfield Royal hospital, the new Chesterfield market hall and the Proact stadium, home to Chesterfield FC. Chesterfield football club may not currently be topping the league one table, but they are one of just six football clubs—alongside Arsenal, Liverpool, Brighton and Hove Albion, Tranmere Rovers and Preston North End—to have Changing Places toilets at their grounds, and Chesterfield’s community hub is an exemplar in catering for disabled football fans. There is positive progress, therefore, but just imagine for a moment that I was standing here saying that there was only one public toilet in a constituency. There would be an outcry, yet practically, for some of our citizens, that is precisely the case.
I come to what can be done. In part M of the Building Regulations 2010, section 5.6 states:
“In large building developments, separate facilities for baby changing and an enlarged unisex toilet incorporating an adult changing table are desirable.”
I would like to see Changing Places toilet provision move to being mandatory in all new large public buildings, rather than desirable as it is today. The cost of a Changing Places toilet is on average around £12,000 to £15,000, and it seems to me incongruous that in an era when we have the Equality Act, which is designed to ensure that disabled people are able to live in a fair and equal society, we can tolerate a situation where 1 million people have their choices so restricted by access to something as basic as toileting.
I would also like the Government, through the Minister’s Department, to make available grant funding to support new and existing building developers to install Changing Places toilets. It would not necessarily need to cover all the cost, but I feel that any support would enable more installations to happen. For example, a grant fund that provided perhaps up to half the cost of Changing Places provision, up to a maximum of a £10,000 grant, would make a real difference to the number of Changing Places toilets available. I also commend the work that the Government are doing with the Changing Places consortium on a new website, which I believe will be launched on World Toilet Day—who knew?—on 19 November. It will provide a detailed map highlighting all the Changing Places toilets currently available.
May I ask the Minister to confirm whether there are any plans to consider amending the building regulations to make Changing Places toilets mandatory in large public buildings? Will he investigate setting up a fund to support part of the cost of Changing Places toilets for developers and local authorities who include them in their design? Will he also advise what current sources of funding might be available to organisations that are considering making Changing Places toilets available in their premises?
Will the Minister say more about what the Government are doing to promote the importance of Changing Places toilets and make awareness of them more easy to access for families planning their trips? Finally, will he say a bit more about the steps that his Department are taking to market Britain as an accessible tourist destination? What opportunities does he envisage could be created to promote more effectively the steps that Britain takes to make our tourist destinations accessible to disabled visitors?
In closing, I should say that, to me, this is one of the really important civil rights issues of our time. It may be an unfashionable cause, but it is about justice and equality of access—a principle that I hope all of us would recognise. If there were five Changing Places toilets in every constituency, there would be reasonable access to appropriate toilet facilities for these families wherever they were. That should be our target in the coming years, and the measures I have outlined would help us to achieve that. One day, the misery that this issue has brought to families of disabled adults and children will be at an end. Why not let that time be now?
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship for the second time this afternoon, Ms Dorries. I thank the hon. Member for Chesterfield (Toby Perkins) for bringing forward this important issue for debate. It is a matter that Members of both Houses have taken a keen interest in over the years. I will endeavour to answer the hon. Gentleman’s questions.
It is important to recognise that there is no dispute about the importance of accessible toilets for disabled people. Most of us take the availability of toilets for granted. Part M of the Building Regulations 2010 sets out a minimum standard for accessible toilets in most public buildings, which helps to ensure that a wide range of needs is met. However, for adults and children whose needs are not met by the standard toilet provision, and for their families and carers, we recognise that the availability of facilities such as Changing Places toilets is central to planning any activity that takes place outside the home.
We can all agree that having more Changing Places facilities is a good thing, which is why my Department has worked with partners including the Changing Places campaign, PAMIS, Mencap and the British Toilet Association to improve the provision of Changing Places toilets, and we intend to continue. I pay tribute to Loretto Lambe of PAMIS. I send my condolences, on behalf of the Government, to her family and friends at this difficult time.
There has been a lot of success. The number of Changing Places toilets in the UK has increased from about 140 to more than 750—I think it is now 770—since my Department became involved in 2007, and more facilities are planned in new locations.
Does the Minister agree that proper access to toilets for disabled people is not just a moral imperative, for the reasons we have heard? It also makes sense because it encourages more people to come into town centres, such as Cheltenham. That, in turn, is good for business.
I agree. Cheltenham is a fantastic place; if disabled adults and people with disabled children are able to visit places across the country such as Cheltenham and Chesterfield, we will have a better society and more prosperous town centres.
Our success has been driven by local campaigners, with the broader support and backing of national organisations. Campaigners, including the constituents of the hon. Member for Chesterfield, who made this debate possible, deserve great credit for their dedication and success in ensuring that the number of Changing Places toilets continues to rise. I would like to take the opportunity to recognise the great work that those campaigners have undertaken in their local communities.
Alongside the work of campaigning groups, the Government have been active in considering what we can do to help. Before I come to the issue of Changing Places toilets and building regulations, I will explain what has already been done to support and increase the number of Changing Places toilets. For some years, the Department has hosted the Changing Places Charter Group, which brings together campaigning and business interests. It meets periodically to discuss how voluntary provision of Changing Places facilities can be improved, and it has had some notable successes. It has helped to identify problems that need to be resolved to improve provision, and it has worked to address those issues over time.
The group found that, although building more Changing Places facilities is important, it is only one aspect to be considered in ensuring that Changing Places toilets genuinely improve choice for disabled people and their carers. Changing Places toilets need to be located in the right place, and they need to be easy to find and access. This is a strategic planning issue that requires careful consideration to make the facilities effective. Building a Changing Places toilet in the wrong location is a missed opportunity. Changing Places toilets need to be well maintained, and building owners must ensure they remain open for use. There is no point in forcing a developer to build a Changing Places toilet if it is then locked or used for another purpose. The key is to ensure that building owners are willing hosts who recognise and embrace the importance of Changing Places toilets, and proactively support and promote their use.
The Minister is talking about building Changing Places toilets in the correct locations, but one of the issues for my constituents and many disabled people who make long journeys by road is the lack of Changing Places toilets at motorway service stations. Does the Minister agree that those are sadly deficient at the moment?
Over the years, motorway service stations have become an extremely important part of people’s ability to travel—particularly people who need to use facilities when they are travelling. I agree that we should do whatever we can to encourage the development of Changing Places toilets that are suitable for the people we have been talking about when service stations are built.
In addition to ensuring that Changing Places toilets are built, it is important that disabled people and carers know where their nearest Changing Places toilet is, when it is open, how to access it and what equipment is installed at each location. I am pleased to say that earlier this year, as the hon. Member for Chesterfield said, my Department gave a grant to Mencap, which, working with the Changing Places campaign and the British Toilet Association, has developed a web application that will transform the way in which people are able to find and use Changing Places toilets. That work was funded by the devolved Administrations, and it should be launched shortly.
The website will enable disabled people and their carers to find the nearest Changing Places toilet anywhere in the United Kingdom at the touch of a button. They will be able to navigate to the location using GPS, which has been precisely located; see photos of the outside and entrance, which will make the toilet easy to find; and find opening times and access arrangements. They will also be able to see photos from the inside and obtain all of the necessary details to be confident that the facility will be suited to their individual needs. It is important that people and their carers are not embarrassed when they go to a Changing Places toilet, as the toilets need to satisfy the needs of the people who use them.
The website will also provide a journey planner that will enable people instantly to find the location of every Changing Places facility along their proposed route. In addition, having an accurate map of every Changing Places toilet in the UK will enable Mencap and its partner organisations to identify geographical gaps in provision. Those areas can then be targeted to identify how Changing Places toilets can be provided. We believe that that will have a transformational effect on the lives of disabled people who rely on Changing Places toilets, and their carers. It will help to maximise the benefit of each Changing Places facility that is built.
As I said, it is important that more Changing Places toilets are built and successfully operated over time. The key issue, which brings me to the hon. Gentleman’s question, is how that can be best brought about. The guidance in “Approved Document M”, on accessibility and facilities in buildings, which supports the requirement in part M of the Building Regulations 2010, was amended in 2013 to include a reference to Changing Places toilets; it provides links to information on their installation and use developed by the Changing Places campaign. That important endorsement not only signalled the importance of such facilities but gave building owners and operators confidence that Changing Places toilets can be successfully integrated into their properties. However, that change in guidance does not mean that building regulations require that Changing Places toilets be provided. Instead, it indicates that they are desirable in large buildings and complexes.
There are a number of important factors to take into account when considering the use of building regulations in this context. I note that building regulations are a devolved matter and therefore I can speak only for England in this respect. It would be up to the devolved Administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to consider the issue with respect to their own building standards.
Building regulations apply only where building work is taking place. That means that building regulations are not necessarily best suited to ensuring that provision is made in the most important locations. The building regulations are not retrospective. That means that any requirement for Changing Places toilets would apply only in new buildings or to works involving major refurbishment. That means that the number of facilities likely to be provided would be low by comparison with the existing building stock overall.
The building regulations do not apply to all types of buildings. Railway stations, airports and ports are among the most relevant exceptions. More importantly, building regulations do not ensure that Changing Places toilets are retained in use or made available to the public once built. On that basis, it has been the Government’s preferred approach to see voluntary provision coming forward, rather than introducing specific regulatory requirements. A partnering approach helps to ensure that Changing Places toilets are in the right place, are maintained to the right standard and continue to be available for use once built.
I want to press the Minister slightly on this point. We are talking about large public buildings, such as leisure centres and concert venues. We are talking about places that by definition will generally be accessible and in relevant places because the providers of those places want people to be able to get to them. I think that just a bit of a push would make a real difference to the number of these facilities that are built. It is really worth the Government’s considering that.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for putting that point. That brings me nicely on to saying that we will certainly keep an open mind about whether there is a role for building regulations. I am pleased to tell him that the Department for Communities and Local Government has already commissioned research into how well part M of the building regulations is working. That includes specific reference to consideration of the need for Changing Places toilets. We will consider the results of that research in deciding whether a review of the current guidance in relation to part M is necessary. As the hon. Gentleman can tell from that, we take this issue extremely seriously.
Let me pick up on a couple of the hon. Gentleman’s other points. I completely agree with him about tourism. I mentioned that town centres would be beneficiaries if we had more Changing Places toilets available. Certainly many tourist attractions could benefit. It is great that his county of Derbyshire has a lot of Changing Places toilets compared with elsewhere in the country. That is good because much of Derbyshire is not that accessible as a result of the terrain. It is quite a hilly place, particularly up in the Derbyshire dales and so on. It is great to see the people of Derbyshire taking this issue so seriously.
On the fund that the hon. Gentleman mentioned with regard to encouraging developers, that perhaps would be an issue for after the spending review, when we will know the position that the Department is in on future spending. However, he can be assured that the Government take Changing Places toilets extremely seriously. I have listened intently to this debate and I can see so many hon. Members here who are concerned about the issue. It is certainly something that we will consider in the review of part M of the building regulations.
Question put and agreed to.
Secondary Breast Cancer
I beg to move,
That this House has considered secondary breast cancer.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Dorries, in the first Westminster Hall debate that I have secured. As a co-chair of the all-party group on breast cancer, I am delighted to be able to raise the extremely important issue of secondary breast cancer. I thank all the people and organisations that have provided me with valuable information for today’s debate, not least Breast Cancer Care and Breast Cancer Now, both of which provide vital support to the all-party group. I particularly welcome the volunteers from those charities who are in the Public Gallery, representing the approximately 36,000 people living with secondary breast cancer in the UK today.
Last Tuesday was Secondary Breast Cancer Awareness Day. It underlines the importance of the issue that, at an event held in Parliament, nearly 90 MPs from both sides of the House turned up to support. Cancer is a disease that will sadly affect us all in one way or another during our lifetime, but the subject of today’s debate, secondary breast cancer, is often overlooked. Before making progress, I apologise to everyone for the number of acronyms that I will use, but given the number of hon. Members who want to speak, if I used the full names each time, we would never get through everyone.
Secondary breast cancer, also known as metastatic, advanced or stage 4 breast cancer, is where breast cancer cells have spread from the breast to other parts of the body—most commonly to the bones, lungs, liver and brain. It is incurable, but treatable. On average, people live with the disease for two or three years after diagnosis. However, that can vary considerably from person to person, with some living only months after diagnosis and others living many years longer. Unfortunately, research has shown that many secondary breast cancer patients receive inadequate care. All too often, it is much poorer than that which they received following their primary diagnosis. They do not always have access to palliative care, specialist nursing or the treatments that could extend their lives. Much of the current discussion and debate on cancer focuses on promoting early diagnosis and improving survival outcomes. That is extremely important and should be at the forefront of any cancer strategy. However, it is vital that it does not mean that people living with incurable secondary breast cancer are forgotten about. For them, efforts to improve early diagnosis rates will have no effect.
However, there are many things we can do, and for the purposes of today, I would like to focus on five key areas. First, one of the key issues underpinning many of the problems in care is the lack of data about the disease. At present, we have no idea how many people are being diagnosed with secondary breast cancer or how the disease progressively affects life over time. It is surprising that we still do not have an accurate figure for the number of people living with secondary breast cancer. Without that number, it is extremely difficult for the NHS to plan and commission services effectively to meet the needs of patients.
I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing this important debate. He is making a powerful case—a case that has also been made to me by my constituent Jade Braithwaite from Colne, whose mother sadly lost her life to secondary breast cancer. Given that it is already mandatory for hospitals to collect the data on secondary breast cancer, does he agree that it is absolutely shocking how few data we currently have?
I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention. I am coming on to that point now—well anticipated! As I said, it is surprising that we do not have accurate figures and it is therefore difficult to plan and commission effectively. That is acutely demonstrated in the lack of specialist nurses and poor access to palliative care, which both Breast Cancer Care and the secondary breast cancer taskforce first raised in 2008.
In 2010, Breast Cancer Care, along with other breast cancer charities and the APPG, met the Prime Minister to discuss the issue. He agreed that data collection was necessary and committed to achieving that. As a result, in the 2011 cancer strategy, “Improving Outcomes”, there was a commitment to collecting data for the first time. It stated:
“During 2011/12 we will pilot the collection of data on recurrence/metastasis on patients with breast cancer with the aim of undertaking full collection from April 2012.”
The pilot was run by the National Cancer Intelligence Network, the NCIN, in collaboration with Breast Cancer Care, and it involved 15 breast cancer units across England. The pilot report published in March 2012 identified 598 patients with recurrent or metastatic breast cancer. Of those, only 53% were recorded as having been referred to a clinical nurse specialist, palliative care nurse or specialist keyworker at the time of diagnosis. The pilot recommended that all breast cancer units in England submit data on patients with recurrent and metastatic breast cancer using the existing data collection mechanisms, and in January 2013 that was made mandatory in all new diagnoses recorded in England. Unfortunately, the data have yet to be published, and I understand that hospitals are not collecting them consistently. Indeed, a report was due to be published by the NCIN on the topic earlier this year but, disappointingly, it has been repeatedly delayed.
An investigation with health professionals by Breast Cancer Care into why data are not being collected consistently revealed that many of the barriers lie in the practicalities. Time constraints mean that there is often not enough time to input data manually, because patients’ needs, rightly, come first. Structural constraints were cited. Many of the data are expected to be collected through discussion at the multidisciplinary team meeting, but healthcare professionals tell us that most secondary patients are not discussed at MDT level. I welcome the recommendation in the new cancer strategy to review the role and function of the MDT in relation to secondary cancers. IT constraints cause further problems, because online record forms are not set up to collect the data in the cancer outcomes and services dataset, and there is a lack of access to online systems in some hospitals, especially in tertiary centres outside main hospital sites. Finally, there is a lack of awareness about what data are required and confusion about who is responsible for inputting various data items.
Leadership is required to help to drive robust data collection in all hospitals, and we want the Minister, who has responsibility for public health, to make that a priority and lead the way in ensuring that data are collected in every hospital. The new cancer strategy, “Achieving world-class cancer outcomes”, which was published earlier this year, includes a recommendation that data should be collected on all secondary cancer patients. We urgently need the implementation of the plan for how that will happen. In theory, as I have said, breast cancer data should be submitted through the COSD, which replaced the previous national cancer dataset in January 2013 as the new national standard for reporting cancer data in the NHS in England. It has the potential to provide a much broader overview of the treatment, care and outcomes of secondary breast cancer patients. Unless that happens consistently across England, however, we will not see the data that we need to improve care.
I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing the debate and on the powerful case that he is forensically making. He knows as well as I do that, in our area of the west midlands, we were hit by the Ian Paterson scandal at Spire Parkway hospital. Does he believe that a greater ability to collect and collate statistics would have gone some way to alleviating that problem, because it could have been spotted earlier?
I agree completely. The lack of data is astounding, and they would help in so many different areas of treatment.
My second objective is access to specialist palliative care. For those living with a diagnosis of secondary breast cancer, such care can make all the difference in enhancing their quality of life, but for too many, support is not available. In many cases when support becomes available, it is too little, too late. Research for Secondary Breast Cancer Awareness Day in 2014 showed that 90% of people living with secondary breast cancer experience regular pain, and 78% find that it affects their ability to undertake everyday activities. For those reasons, palliative care is an absolute essential for secondary breast cancer. Hospices and community-based services can provide symptom management and pain control so that no one has to live with secondary pain. Furthermore, emotional support for both patient and family can help people come to terms with having an incurable disease, as well as ensuring that decisions are taken and adhered to about their choices at the end of life. Palliative care should come at the point of diagnosis, or at a timely point such as when a patient becomes symptomatic. It should provide both symptom control to help them live as well as they can for as long as possible, and emotional support to help them to cope with having an incurable disease and to make informed choices about the end of life.
The third area that I would like to mention is specialist nursing care. We know from the cancer patient experience survey that having a clinical nurse specialist as part of someone’s care is the biggest driver in improving patient experience. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence quality standard states that everyone with secondary breast cancer should have access to a CNS. A CNS can help to co-ordinate care, provide emotional support and guide a patient through treatment and beyond. However, we know that it is far less common for someone with secondary breast cancer to have a CNS than for someone who has primary breast cancer, mainly because only a handful of CNSs have specific experience of and expertise in secondary breast cancer. A 2010 study found that there were only 19 dedicated secondary breast cancer nurse post-holders across the UK—the current estimate is 25—as opposed to 600 conventional breast cancer care nurse posts. That number must be increased, given that we estimate that there are 36,000 people living with secondary breast cancer—that figure is likely to grow as the population ages and treatments improve.
We need to commit to training more secondary breast cancer CNSs. Anecdotal evidence from existing nurses and from patients who receive care from a CNS suggest that that measure could save money in the long term by keeping patients out of hospital and highlighting problems before they become crises in A&E. We would also expect someone who has a CNS to be more likely than someone who does not to be referred to palliative care when they need it.
My fourth point is about access to drugs and treatments. The cancer drugs fund, which was introduced in 2011, has been an important initiative to improve access to clinically effective drugs that have been deemed by NICE not to be cost-effective enough to be provided routinely on the NHS. Government figures show that, to date, 72,000 people have received life-extending cancer drugs as a result of the CDF. However, it was recently announced that two secondary breast cancer drugs would be removed from the list with effect from November this year. Although NHS England has stressed that any patient who is on a drug when it is de-listed will continue to receive it until it is no longer clinically effective, the change creates anxiety for people living with secondary breast cancer. Cancer charities hear from a lot of people who are concerned that their options for treatment in the future, when their current treatment is no longer effective, are being reduced.
I understand that new cancer drugs can be extremely expensive and it is important to remember that the NHS has finite resources, but there is a clear opportunity to reform the drug appraisal system and bring together pharmaceutical companies with healthcare professionals to ensure that secondary breast cancer patients can access new drugs at a price that is affordable to the NHS. The CDF was only ever meant to be a short-term solution to the problem, and it is vital that we find a long-term solution.
The final key area that I want to see addressed is co-ordinated and joined-up care. The role of a multi-disciplinary team is to bring together all the healthcare professionals involved in a patient’s care to help to co-ordinate the support that that patient receives. For many primary breast cancer patients, it works very well, bringing together oncologists, nurses, radiotherapists and other professionals to ensure that the patient’s care is joined up and integrated. However, the secondary breast cancer taskforce found that that was simply not the case for secondary breast cancer patients, largely because people living with the disease are under the care of only an oncologist rather than a team of professionals. Because of that gap, opportunities—for example, the opportunity to identify when palliative care would be most beneficial—are being missed. The cancer strategy includes a recommendation that MDTs consider new pathways for secondary patients. The implementation of that recommendation would go a long way towards joining up care more consistently and ensuring that patients’ holistic needs are more likely to be met.
To conclude, I ask the Minister to consider five clear steps: better data collection; greater access to palliative care; more specialist nurses; access to better drugs and treatment; and co-ordinated and joined-up care. To achieve the Government’s aim of being the best in Europe for cancer care, we need to ensure that people survive cancer and that those who are living with incurable cancers like Sue, who I met at the event last week, and Dee, who I believe is in the Public Gallery, are getting the care and support they need to ensure that they can live as well as they can for as long as they can.
Thank you for giving me the chance to speak in this debate, Ms Dorries. I congratulate the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Craig Tracey) on bringing this matter to the House for consideration. This is an opportunity for all of us to participate and throw in our knowledge. We are all fond of the Minister and we know that her replies will be positive because of her knowledge of this subject, which we have discussed on many occasions. I look forward to her response.
This issue is of the utmost importance. I am my party’s health spokesperson at Westminster, so I am well aware of these issues back home, which come much too close to many of us and indeed our constituents.
In yesterday’s debate on the availability of cancer drugs, we discussed many issues. Today we are specifically discussing breast cancer and the hon. Member for North Warwickshire is right that we should take an interest in it. Almost 80 MPs attended the breast cancer function just over a month ago.
I would like to focus specifically on Northern Ireland. The Minister will know that health is a devolved matter, but I want to give some statistical evidence on how important it is to us in Northern Ireland and how much help we need for it in Northern Ireland and on the mainland. According to the Northern Ireland Executive, breast cancer is the most common form of cancer among Northern Irish women, excluding non-melanoma skin cancer. I am sure that Members will agree that the figures are worrying: some 1,200 women are diagnosed with breast cancer in Northern Ireland each year and one in nine is expected to develop the disease at some stage in their life.
We all know about the high-profile cases in the press every week—Angelina Jolie is one and Kylie Minogue is another. We think of them because they are household names, but, by speaking about their personal circumstances, they have raised the profile of this disease. In some cases, surgical operations have been done before the disease comes. When we hear about that sort of step, we know that we are talking about something most serious.
There have been welcome developments in breast cancer treatment and care in the Province, including free breast cancer screening for 50 to 70-year-olds every three years. That new initiative, announced by my colleague, Simon Hamilton, illustrates the need for specific action on diagnosis, and early diagnosis in particular, as the hon. Member for North Warwickshire mentioned. We need to step up to the plate and instigate action wherever we can.
Breast cancer screening is an effective way to detect cancer in its early stages. Early detection is essential to increase survival rates. Just yesterday I tabled a question, asking “what steps” the Minister’s Department
“has taken to ensure that people diagnosed with cancer are (a) diagnosed early and (b) treated immediately.”
Early diagnosis and the availability of treatment are important issues. As the hon. Member for North Warwickshire outlined in his speech, there is a period of time in between them, but we need early diagnosis and early treatment—let us have the two of them together.
Complications arise and treatment is made more difficult when the primary cancer spreads to another part of the body. It is the secondary cancer that we are here—
Order. More speakers have requested to speak in the debate than we realised at the beginning. Therefore, accounting for the winding-up speeches, the time available has narrowed considerably to just over five minutes each. I have to push you, Mr Shannon. Having now spoken for four and a half minutes, could you begin to wind up so that we can get everyone in? That would be fantastic. Thank you.
I appreciate that. I spoke to you earlier, Ms Dorries, and looked at the figures. I was not aware that we would be down to five minutes, so let me focus on these points.
It is estimated that over a third of those diagnosed with primary breast cancer will develop a secondary cancer within 10 years of their first diagnosis. Again, early detection is the issue. Advancing new treatments and improving those in existence is of the utmost importance, but we must also publicise and promote research and findings on what can be done to prevent both primary and secondary breast cancer and to reduce the risks of them developing.
I see that the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Dr Whitford) from the Scottish National party is here to make a contribution. I know of her interest in this issue from her previous job, so I look forward to hearing what she and her party have been able to do in Scotland. That is important for the debate.
We should also look at partnerships between Governments, universities and the pharmaceutical companies. In the Minister’s response, will she say what steps will be taken to review the NICE criteria? It seems that some new drugs on the market that could be used to reduce deaths from breast cancer are held up by those criteria. Will she look at that?
I do not believe that we can put a price on life and, when it comes to these issues, we cannot make decisions based on anything other than genuine human compassion and empathy. I hope that the debate will raise awareness for those with breast cancer.
The Minister always responds in a positive fashion. We need to look at the availability of drugs, early diagnosis and early provision of medicine and medical help. We also need to raise this issue with the pharmaceutical companies and review the NICE regulations, because, by doing so, I think we will get more drugs available.
I pay tribute to the Members who have made contributions so far on this important subject, which affects residents in all of our constituencies. Cancer is, as we all know, a harrowing illness for those who suffer from it and for their families and friends. Three million people will be living with cancer in the United Kingdom by the end of the Parliament.
Two of my close friends who helped me get into this place have fallen victim to cancer since the election. For their sake and that of the 550 people in Wiltshire under the age of 75 who die of cancer every year, cancer must remain at the top of the agenda. There must be a long-term strategy for combating this dreadful illness.
Cancer touches everyone’s lives at some point. Most people with cancer want to ensure that they have the best information as fast as possible. Many go trawling through the internet, looking at not just drugs, but other treatments that could help such as diet, exercise and complementary therapies.
Today’s cancer patients know that there are things they can do to improve their chance of survival. They want to increase their knowledge so that they can make personal, well informed decisions and create personal treatment packages around their doctors’ treatments.
No two patients wish for identical forms of care, which is why it is important that the Government have taken steps on personal support. There are now clinician nurse specialists for those with secondary breast cancer, which is a good step in the right direction.
As the Minister will know, Macmillan Cancer Support is calling on the Government to fund an independent review of choices for end-of-life care. I encourage them to look closely at what Macmillan has to say. I know that Ministers are committed to improving the detection and treatment of breast cancer, in particular to avoid the risk of secondary breast cancer developing. I am encouraged that breast cancer survival rates have increased, but there is a lot more to be done.
The only way I can foresee that we can combat secondary breast cancer is by focusing on reducing primary cancer. Survival time post-diagnosis depends on several factors, including the stages of diagnosis, the overall health of the patient and the quality of care they receive.
I have been concerned for a long time that one group of people is often overlooked: the older generation. Cancer is not part of old age, although it is seen by many to be. We need to consider how we reach our elderly through information and support, to give them the confidence to seek medical treatment. Too often, pensioners such as my grandmother are too afraid to go to the doctor because they fear they will end up going into hospital and never coming back, so they leave it until it is simply too late. It does not have to be that way.
One solution to combat that is providing more services at a community level, so that the fear of going to hospital is reduced. I am pleased to say that that has already been piloted in Wiltshire for chemotherapy services with the help of Hope for Tomorrow, a charity that provides mobile chemotherapy units and for which I am a regular fundraiser. That is just one example of how we can go much further in the field.
There is work to be done to reduce the health inequality shown by higher rates of mortality in deprived areas. Assessing risky lifestyle behaviours such as smoking and poor diets, combined with active screening and symptom awareness programmes, is vital.
Last weekend, a close family friend of mine lost their battle and died of secondary breast cancer. I learned from first-hand experience that the most important thing we need to do is improve care across the entire cancer journey. We need to start looking at it as a journey and to ensure that a personalised and individual programme is developed, with the family playing a part. It is of the utmost importance that secondary breast cancer patients have access to appropriate services or are referred to specialist palliative care, which can provide more effective pain relief in the management of illnesses, if they so wish.
The cost of cancer will undoubtedly continue to rise during this Parliament. That is why I return to the need for a clear long-term strategy to address this problem. That includes investing in reducing the impact of primary cancers to save money and to save lives in the long run, as well as personal cancer care plans for those living with cancer.
In conclusion, I hope we will do even more to support those living with cancer because this disease touches so many of our lives and affects so many people. I hope the Minister will look closely at Macmillan’s proposals to fund an independent review of end-of-life care choices.
It is a pleasure to speak under your chairmanship, Ms Dorries. I congratulate the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Craig Tracey) on securing this extremely important debate. I refer Members to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests, having worked as a clinical psychologist in the NHS for 20 years.
A diagnosis of secondary breast cancer means that the cancer can be treated but not cured. In those cases, the aim of treatment is to control and slow down the spread of the disease, to relieve symptoms and to give the person the best possible quality of life for as long as possible. At present, there are many treatments that can keep the cancer under control, often for many years. However, when it comes to breast cancer, it appears that the focus has overwhelmingly been on primary breast cancer, and there has been a lack of awareness of and attention to secondary breast cancer. This is therefore an extremely important debate, particularly as this month is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
There appear to be real problems with equity of care across the country. While there are examples of good practice, it appears that quality of care can depend upon location, and that people with secondary breast cancer often receive inadequate care. Access to a clinical nurse specialist from the point of diagnosis onwards has been highlighted as an extremely important development, as has a multidisciplinary team approach to people’s care.
I would like to highlight the relevance of continuity of care between hospital and community services, alongside timely information on all aspects of treatment and care for patients. Access to information, as has been described, about both local and national services is crucial, as well as access to expertise in palliative care for symptom control and ongoing management of troublesome symptoms. It is important that support is provided for the partners, families and children of patients, and I hope the Minister will comment on that in her response. Access to appropriate treatments is also important, as is being made aware of the availability of local clinical trials that may be pertinent.
There has to be a regular assessment of patients’ emotional wellbeing and access to an appropriate level of psychological support. That support should be available whenever needed by the patient, particularly at diagnosis, when cancer progresses and at the end of each treatment. I am aware that Breast Cancer Now has highlighted the huge emotional toll for women living with secondary breast cancer in terms of the anxiety and uncertainty of having to go for regular scanning to monitor their condition. In a video on Breast Cancer Now’s website, one patient describes her experience of going for scanning every three months and then having to wait two weeks to find out the result. During that period, she describes experiencing “scan anxiety” about the potential outcome. Before getting the results, she mentally prepares herself to expect the worst, so as not to be disappointed. She describes crying due to the emotional stress, even when the news is good, and then going away to live her life for another two months before having to start the cycle again.
I am aware of three important articles in The Lancet from 2014 that looked at the prevalence of depression and mental health problems in oncology patients, including those with secondary cancer, the majority of whom were receiving no form of treatment for their mental health difficulties. The recovery from and management of physical conditions is aided by people having good mental health and wellbeing, and that is corroborated by NICE guidance from 2009. There is therefore a need for greater access to psychological therapy provided by the NHS, which has often been inadequate. There should be increased training for clinical nurse specialists in psychological modes of therapy such as cognitive behavioural therapy, so that they can directly assist patients. Greater parity between physical and mental health services is key, alongside greater integration of those services for patients who have a dual diagnosis.
I thank my right hon. Friend—sorry, my hon. Friend the Member for North Warwickshire (Craig Tracey); I just gave him a promotion—for securing the debate.
I come to this with a slightly different hat on. As I prepared to speak, I tried to decide whether the word “cancer” or “secondary” was the scariest. For me, it is “secondary”. I have had cancer a couple of times, and the scan anxiety that the hon. Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow (Dr Cameron) talked of is so real, as is the need for joined-up services and clinical nurse specialists. We need to be able to be a person in the pipeline. Owing to the shortness of time, I will not say a lot of what I was going to say, but I will try to concentrate on what it feels like for the person.
We know the statistics. We know that 50,000 women and men—we must remember that there are men with breast cancer too—get breast cancer per year. The good news for primary breast cancer sufferers is that many of those people are survivors. Victoria Derbyshire is a fine example to us only this morning, in the papers; good luck to her with her battle.
Some of my friends and constituents to whom I have spoken have had secondary or metastatic breast cancer. It sounds hopeless, but it is not. With improved drugs and more targeted and tailored treatment, survival time is longer. Yes, there are 36,000 people living with breast cancer, but it is better quality survival that most of us want. It is about the quality of survival.
I started my journey to becoming an MP by talking in 2010 in one of the rooms in this place about primary cancers and how we had some of the poorest outcomes in Europe. Things are not so much better in 2015. We need to keep our feet to the fire and ensure we push hard on this disease, so that we start to get real progress for primary, and particularly secondary, cancers.
My hon. Friend the Member for Chippenham (Michelle Donelan) mentioned old age but those from various ethnic minorities also have extremely poor outcomes. We must pay heed to that. How can we get better outcomes? The cancer strategy for England calls for improvements from pre-diagnosis to post-treatment. That is vital but we should ensure that patients receive optimum support and interventions so that they can get on with their lives. We need to think about lifestyles and lifetimes, and about which cancer services we need, to enable people to carry on working for as long as they want, so that they feel like people, not like cancer patients. That is the important thing for people living with this disease. We want people to lead healthy, fulfilled and productive lives, whichever stage of the disease they are at. The strategy proposes the development of a national metric of quality of life, underpinned by a robust approach to measurement, which will incentivise the provision of better aftercare interventions.
We want multidisciplinary teams. They really improve outcomes for patients and, when people are diagnosed, they want people other than oncologists. They want to talk to a psychologist as the disease sometimes messes with their heads more than it does with their bodies. That important pipeline is, oh, so needed. There should be robust surveillance systems, as my hon. Friend the Member for North Warwickshire said. It is important that we know what we know, so that we know how to get to the root cause of the problem.
Since 2011, six breast cancer drugs have been available. There was a debate in this place yesterday about the cancer drugs fund. We need sustainable funding to ensure that women and men get the treatment that they need. Treatment should not be a lottery. In my view, this pot is a sticking plaster that has gone a bit curly around the edges. It needs revising and refreshing. There needs to be an efficient way of moving drugs from the cancer drugs fund into positive and routine commissioning. Currently, it is out of date and not fit for purpose.
I welcome the accelerated access review, which reports at the end of the year, and the cancer drugs fund, but I urge the Government to make some speedy decisions because, as 4 November looms, people are sitting on the edge of decision making, not knowing whether they are likely to get treatment or not. Although we have said that women and men who are on their treatment programme will still receive that treatment, it is not so certain for those who are not yet on those drugs.
We could learn a little from the Scottish Medicines Consortium because, on this, it does some things a little better than we are managing to do. It commissions and moves more swiftly. We could also unblock our pipelines. We are potentially disabling innovative medicines. We need to trial innovative drugs that can be used to prolong life and have a conversation with pharmaceutical companies if England does not want to fall behind in the race to make the medicines of the 21st century.
Research is so important, as is this debate on secondary breast cancer because science will unlock the ability to fight the disease. Geneticists on the 1000 Genomes Project have already discovered more than 100 regions of the genome that contain genetic variants. Work goes on in labs, such as the Genesis Genetics research, targeting who is susceptible and why. If we know people are more susceptible, the better they can be treated. Evidence-based is good but it charges industry and researchers with helping to drive things forward.
As a survivor and someone who has held too many women for whom secondary breast cancer has not offered longevity, I dream of a day when immunotherapy, CyberKnife and the work of drugs companies means that this insidious disease is a has-been. We need a lifetime approach, preventive medicine and preventive care. We need to watch our weight, keep healthy and be active, and the drugs that we need when we need them—in hospital or in the community.
I commend the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Craig Tracey) for securing this debate, which marks breast cancer awareness month. Most Members know my interest. I was a breast cancer surgeon for 33 years. The hon. Gentleman said that secondary breast cancer does not gain from the focus that we put on primary breast cancer. I have to disagree with that. In Scotland, we collect the stage at diagnosis and one in five patients still have metastases at the time of diagnosis. That means that we still have a huge job to do to get earlier diagnosis through screening and raising awareness, which is what October is all about. We are limited for time and I will do my best to respond to as many points as possible.
Regarding audit, I chaired the discussions on quality improvement standards for breast cancer in 2001, at which time we discovered that about a quarter of units did not gather any data at all. By 2003, we had managed to change that and we were getting data on the primary treatment of patients. That was against the breast cancer standards that we had set for the entire journey that a patient would go through. In 2007, I was chair for the update of those standards and, at that point, it became a standard that all patients with recurrence or metastases must come back to the multidisciplinary team for discussion. At that point, those data are also gathered. As yet, we do not have a Scottish-wide, absolutely rock-solid way of providing the data. They are being collected through our cancer registry, from SMR01 data and from what we do in-house.
In my unit in Ayrshire, we had a follow-up page for the patient at the end of the data system. Every year when the patient came for the follow-up, a chitty was ticked, sent up to the office and on it went, showing that the patient was alive and well on whatever date they had come. For patients moving to mammographic follow-up, if the mammogram is clear and there are no issues, the procedure is the same. The data on patients with recurrence or metastases must be collected at the multidisciplinary team. That is something that we were doing. We have to look at the systems to make it easy and not burdensome, but that requires that hospitals and trusts have an audit team. Our auditor sits in the multidisciplinary team, where she captures all the treatment of the primary and secondary patients. That is really important.
The hon. Member for North Warwickshire mentioned CNSs. There are different approaches. In our unit, we treat approximately 400 new breast cancers every year, which means that a significant number of patients have recurrent and secondary breast cancer. We talked about whether we should split our teams and have one for secondary breast cancer. We decided against that because we have a breast cancer team, which the patient will have met at the beginning. I felt that meeting the same team—a friendly face or someone the patient knew from three or four years ago—is a benefit.
Many units have surgical cancer nurse specialists, who do not move into chemotherapy or oncology. Obviously, that would not work that way. Our cancer nurse specialists travel the whole journey with the patient, looking after the patient in the surgical part of the journey and in the oncology clinic during chemotherapy. They are also there if the patient is unlucky enough to face recurrence or metastases. I believe that this linear approach—as long as enough nurses are provided for that support—gives the advantage of continuity.
My hon. Friend the Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow (Dr Cameron) mentioned looking at the wellbeing of patients. In Scotland, we use something called the distress thermometer, which is used for patients undergoing treatment for primary and secondary breast cancers. It is quite a quick, easy tool that, at least, allows us to pick out a patient who is not doing so well and therefore identify them for additional support. Our cancer nurse specialists have all had additional training. We have a specialist oncology psychologist on our health board, who provides additional training to the nurses. Therefore, for someone who needs it, that extra help and counselling is available. For someone with more complex needs, or where the diagnosis of breast cancer or metastatic breast cancer comes on top of mental health issues, the oncology psychologist would give us that back-up by taking on the patient.
The hon. Member for North Warwickshire mentioned palliative care. In Ayrshire, we are lucky enough to have a hospice. It is routine for us to refer patients at the point at which they are metastatic and symptomatic. We do not refer them as soon as they are metastatic because if a patient is hormone-sensitive, they have a 50% five-year survival with metastatic disease. That is because we have so many treatment options and breast cancer appears to behave quite differently from other cancers in that we can get it into a balance. The patient can be very well and active, yet the disease is sitting there. As soon as the patient starts to have symptoms, we have liaison nurses in our hospitals and we make a referral. Part of our GPs’ quality outcome framework is that patients who are defined as palliative must be discussed regularly in primary care and be on a palliative care register.
We had the debate on assisted dying just last month. The clear decision of the House was that we would not go down that route. That throws back on to the Government, and us all, the responsibility to ensure that high-quality palliative care services are there. We cannot vote that way as convincingly as we did and then not step up to the mark. That is really important.
I do not have a lot of time to speak, but I should say that we are doing good things in Scotland. Because we are smaller, we have been able to create a single day when all the teams in Scotland come together—actually, they come together for two days: a trial and research day and an audit day. Our whole audit—all the dirty washing—is put up in a PowerPoint presentation and we have a completely open learning discussion about it. A one-year project is starting now, so hopefully the data, including detail on secondary, recurrence and survival, will be available in autumn next year.
I congratulate the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Craig Tracey) on securing this important debate and the laudable and worthwhile work he is doing as a member of the all-party group on breast cancer.
We have made huge progress on improving cancer services—in the past decade, five-year survival rates for nearly all types of cancer have improved—but we still lag behind other countries, and there is worrying evidence from the past five years that the progress we have been making on cancer care has stalled, or potentially even gone backwards. In government, Labour created 28 cancer networks to drive change and improvement in cancer services. The networks brought together the providers and commissioners of cancer care to work together to plan and deliver high-quality cancer services in their areas. They helped to oversee and drive up the quality of services delivered to cancer patients. By significantly changing their structure and cutting millions from their budgets, as well as by scrapping the highly regarded national cancer action team, the coalition Government disrupted those networks.
Our hard-working clinicians and staff are trying their best within the system; despite the challenges, they continue to deliver quality care, so we should all pay tribute to them. Early diagnosis is critical to improving cancer survival because treatment is more likely to be successful at an earlier stage. Naturally, far too many of those people diagnosed through the emergency route are in the advanced stages, meaning the prognosis is poor compared with that for cancer diagnosed through other routes.
The nature of cancer is changing. Just as with AIDS, rapid advances in technology have meant that for many cancer is no longer the death sentence it once was. Such welcome changes do, however, mean that cancer is increasingly being considered a long-term condition, which has its own requirements in terms of long-term care and support. The chance of recurrence, as in secondary breast cancer, underlines the importance of remaining vigilant. It is possible to reduce considerably the probability that people with cancer will experience long-term poor health following treatment by providing appropriate and co-ordinated support and intervention. That is what we must do.
No breast cancer patient should end up lost in our vast health system, unable to find the treatment to which they are entitled. Cancer survivors have to be properly supported once their treatment stops to help their recovery and minimise the impact of their illness on their overall health and wellbeing. The current formulaic approaches are not meeting the needs of cancer patients, and the current hospital-based follow-up service simply will not cope with the growing cancer population.
If implemented, the strategy developed by the Independent Cancer Taskforce in its report would be a huge leap forward. I am pleased that the Department of Health has already made some commitments, and we look forward to hearing more following the spending review, but we need to ensure that these things actually happen. Equally, the cancer strategy recommendation of a “living with and beyond cancer” programme to ensure that people are fully supported and their needs are met should be followed through. I commend those developing support networks in their local areas, but they deserve more backing from the Government. I welcome the Government’s commitment to ensuring that everybody has a recovery package by 2020. That is crucial, as one in three people experience moderate to severe unmet needs after their treatment.
We owe it to the families battling secondary breast cancer today to continue to have high ambitions. I thank all Members for their contributions. Despite political differences, we do all have the same ambition: to bring forward the day when this terrible disease is beaten.
I congratulate all colleagues on an excellent debate. It is a shame that time has slightly beaten us. I fear it will beat me as well: if I am to allow a minute or so for my hon. Friend the Member for North Warwickshire (Craig Tracey) to respond at the end, I might not have the chance to make some of the points I would like to have made. Nevertheless, this debate in Breast Cancer Awareness Month is very timely for all the reasons mentioned. There have been some important contributions. I always enjoy listening to the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Dr Whitford); she brings incredible experience to debates of this nature.
As the cancer drugs fund was debated in this Chamber only yesterday with my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Life Sciences, I will not touch on that so that I save a little time. As others have said, we want to do a lot better in tackling cancer, and our aim is to lead the world. Survival rates are getting a lot better: for people diagnosed between 2011 and 2015, we are on track to save a projected 12,000 more lives a year. But we do want to go further. Nevertheless, as we ask what more we can do, we should acknowledge that we are making progress, although much of the rest of the world is too.
In January, NHS England asked the independent cancer taskforce to draw up a five-year strategy. It was published in July and recommends a range of improvements across the cancer pathway. Some Members were present in the House in July when the chair of the taskforce, Harpal Kumar, presented its conclusions to us. The strategy is an excellent bit of work and, as our manifesto made clear, we are working with the NHS, charities and patient groups to deliver it. It is important to tell the House that to support the delivery of the strategy, NHS England has appointed Cally Palmer, chief executive of the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, as NHS national cancer director. While continuing in her current position, she will lead the implementation of the strategy, alongside work to test new models of care at the Royal Marsden hospital and University College London hospital, in partnership with Manchester Cancer. Those are important developments.
The importance of secondary breast cancer was acknowledged in the taskforce report, which noted that all NHS trusts should now be recording recurrent and secondary breast cancer patients, but we acknowledge that uptake has been variable thus far, as highlighted in the opening speech. I made the importance of data collection one of the strategic priorities in my letter to Public Health England earlier this year, so we know that we need to do better.
Following a 2012 pilot managed by the National Cancer Intelligence Network, all breast units have been required to submit information on all patients diagnosed with a new recurrence or metastatic disease through the cancer waiting times process. For breast cancer cases, that now includes a data item on cancer recurrence. Data have been submitted monthly since January 2013, but collection remains challenging because relapsed patients may re-present in many different ways and through many referral routes, as the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire mentioned. For example, they might re-present through a routine follow-up appointment, by contacting their GP with renewed symptoms or by presenting with another unrelated condition, at which point secondary breast cancer has been diagnosed. There are some practical barriers, but we do need to do better.
To drive up the quality and completeness of the data, trusts are sent monthly reports so that they can benchmark themselves against other trusts, which has been effective in driving up performance in other areas of cancer care. Over the next year, those reports will include data on recurrence of cancer. In addition, more work is being scoped by NHS England and Public Health England based on the recommendation from the cancer taskforce to establish robust surveillance systems to collect relevant data. We know there is more to be done on the detection of secondary breast cancer, which can be diagnosed many years after primary breast cancer, as other Members have said. Although survival rates are improving, the breast cancer clinical reference group of NHS England is determined to ensure that everything possible is done to reduce the risk of secondary breast cancer. The group is in the final stages of producing a guideline on breast cancer services to improve information given to patients about the risk of secondary breast cancer. Such information is currently variable and sometimes inadequate, as highlighted by my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St Edmunds (Jo Churchill).
The Minister touches on a point that reinforces the fact that, as a basic rule of thumb, policy makers and service planners should know the numbers and the needs. She addressed the numbers when she spoke about data. Knowledge about needs is best developed by listening to the patients themselves, who expressed those needs forcefully in the five-point bucket list from Breast Cancer Care.
I am sure we would all agree with that important point.
I will finish by discussing the new guideline that the clinical reference group is developing. The guideline will state that all patients with primary breast cancer should have a consultation with a clinician at the end of treatment that will include advice on spotting signs and symptoms that might indicate secondary breast cancer. That information will be delivered together with an assessment of the patient’s physical, psychological and social needs—I am interested in the distress thermometer that the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire mentioned, as well as in the contribution of the hon. Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow (Dr Cameron). The overall recovery package is being developed in partnership with Macmillan Cancer Support. The evidence is that that work is very effective where it has been done well. The advice that has been given will be recorded in the records of every breast cancer patient so that we know it has happened and so that we can track it.
NHS England hopes to publish the new guidance as a cancer resource on its website in the next few weeks. We will promote that guidance through the usual channels, but we would appreciate it if hon. Members with a particular interest, and particularly my hon. Friend the Member for North Warwickshire—I congratulate him on his appointment as co-chair of the all-party group—could draw this important document to people’s attention.
The clinical reference group will also consider how the care and support of patients diagnosed with secondary breast cancer can be improved, including through the provision of clinical nurse specialists. Of course, we agree that clinical nurse specialists play an important role. The number of patients reporting that they have been given the name of a CNS rose from 84% in 2010 to 89% in 2014, including 93% of breast cancer patients. We are doing a lot better, but hon. Members are right to highlight that, in the case of secondary breast cancer, we have some distance to go.
Members have said that we need to step up on palliative care, particularly in the light of last month’s debate—the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire made an important speech in that debate. We are committed to ensuring that everyone has access to high-quality, personalised palliative care. Breast Cancer Care’s new report, “Too little, too late”, is an important contribution to the debate about what we need to do. The Government have introduced five new priorities for end-of-life care—those are five important new principles—and my ministerial colleagues will be taking that forward. Nevertheless, I welcome Parliament’s new focus on palliative care and quality end-of-life care, which is important.
In the few seconds that I have remaining, I want to give people confidence that a lot of research is going on in this area. There is more research into cancer than any other disease in terms of National Institute for Health Research funding. In particular, the NIHR’s clinical research network is currently recruiting patients for nearly 100 trials and studies in breast cancer. One is a global trial that aims better to control secondary breast cancer using a drug called a dual mTOR inhibitor. I am delighted to say that the network recruited the first patient in the world to this trial, which I hope is an indication of the importance of our research infrastructure.
I am afraid that I do not have time to give way. We can speak after the debate; I apologise.
A lot of other things are going on in that area, but I will leave just a few seconds to my hon. Friend the Member for North Warwickshire. However, I reassure Members that this subject is of huge importance to the Government.
I will be very quick.
I thank the Minister for her response. I also thank the other Front-Bench spokesmen, especially the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Dr Whitford) who obviously brings a great deal of expertise to the debate. I thank all colleagues who have taken part in this debate, particularly my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St Edmunds (Jo Churchill) for sharing her experience.
It is clear from the debate that we all have the same objectives; we all want to get the same thing and there are many common arguments. However, the fact remains that 11,700 people still die from secondary breast cancer every year, so there is more that we can do. I ask the Minister to ensure that more is considered in relation to secondary breast cancer.
Motion lapsed, and sitting adjourned without Question put (Standing Order No. 10(14)).