Ben Bradshaw

Working Hard for Exeter

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Commons Interventions 8th-28th November

On a UN Vote for an Independent Expert for the LGBT Community

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab)

When I was a Foreign Office Minister, I was told by one leader of a Commonwealth country that I would not be welcome to visit, so we have come quite a long way. I thank the Minister for what he is doing. Is it not time to make our generous aid conditional on respect for all humans’ rights?

Sir Alan Duncan

I obviously speak for the Foreign Office, not the Department for International Development, but I am a former DFID Minister. The issue of conditionality always raises the moral question of stopping money, but that would then harm the impoverished people we are trying to help. It is not as straightforward as the right hon. Gentleman suggests, but I take on board the importance of campaigning strongly and using any budget and expenditure to maximise our influence over this issue.

On Hospitals in Special Measures

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab)

The Secretary of State will know that with depressing regularity the same hospitals come up on that list that he has just referred to. Sustainability and transformation plans provide the opportunity to address some of the unsustainable elements of local health economies, but only, as my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham East (Heidi Alexander) says, if the money is there. With the health service facing its tightest financial settlement in its history, these plans are just not deliverable.

Mr Hunt

The right hon. Gentleman understands health extremely well, both from his ministerial position and from being on the Select Committee. If he looks at the hospitals going into special measures, he will see that we are beginning to succeed in moving hospitals out of special measures, but because we have an independent inspection regime, sometimes other ones go in. That is how it should be. That is what works very well in the education sector and is beginning to work well in driving up standards in health care as well.

To go back to my answer to the hon. Member for Lewisham East (Heidi Alexander), £1.3 billion more in the NHS this year compared with what would have been put into the NHS if Labour had won the last election means 30,000 nurses, 13,000 doctors or 200,000 hip replacements that we are able to do because of this Government’s funding of the NHS.

On the South West Growth Charter

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab)

I will try to adhere to that advice, Sir Roger, but as I am the sole Opposition MP in the region that we are discussing, it will be a challenge. I congratulate the hon. Member for South West Devon (Mr Streeter) on securing this debate, which as he said is timely because the autumn statement is tomorrow, and because once again, overnight, the south-west railway has been cut off by flooding.

I do not think that anyone can criticise the document that we are debating. It is an excellent document, and no one could find fault with it. However, the regular loss of our connectivity, which has happened yet again in the last 24 hours, is a more accurate reflection of the current reality on the ground than the vision that the charter rightly sets out for the future of the south-west. As the hon. Member for Taunton Deane (Rebecca Pow) said in an intervention, the reality is that we in the south-west feel neglected. When we look at all the investment going into London with Crossrail, the north of England with high-speed rail and all the other massive, multi-billion-pound infrastructure investments, we in the south-west feel like the poor relations. The electrification of the railway line to Bristol and south Wales has now been delayed, and even that will not come down to our part of the region, which needs it just as much.​
We all remember the grandiose promises made before the last election. We could not move in the south-west, particularly after the Cornish rail collapse, for visiting Prime Ministers, Chancellors and Ministers promising £20 billion of investment in infrastructure in this Parliament. I remember the then Prime Minister saying that he would do whatever it took to put our infrastructure in a good condition, but we have seen very little of that investment so far. Some might even argue that those promises and all those visits helped to sweep an almost full house of Conservative MPs to power in our region, with Exeter the only surviving constituency with Opposition representation. My Conservative colleagues have a big responsibility. If I may give them a little gentle advice, at some stage they will have to play hardball with the Government and demand that the promises made to them before the election are actually fulfilled.

Rail infrastructure is not the only problem. The hon. Member for South West Devon has already mentioned broadband; our broadband roll-out in Devon and Somerset is badly behind schedule and the way it has been handled has been an absolute shambles. Broadband is vital in rural areas, particularly for our small and medium-sized enterprises. There is also an awful lot of uncertainty, as the hon. Gentleman said, about Brexit—particularly in Cornwall, given Cornwall’s reliance on huge economic support from the European Union. Sectors in our region such as farming and fisheries, which are disproportionately involved and engaged in importing and exporting within the single market, face big uncertainties. Our higher education sector is very dependent on the free movement of students and academics and on all the investment that our membership of the European Union brings. All that uncertainty, combined with historic under-investment in infrastructure, raises real concerns in our region.

To add insult to injury, we have learned that our local enterprise partnership in Devon and Somerset—Heart of the South West, which the hon. Member for South West Devon mentioned—has been told that it can expect only a tiny fraction of the money that it had originally hoped to receive in the next round of development support grants. That led to an unprecedented letter, which we all signed last week, to ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to think again—I cannot remember another time when every single MP in Devon and Somerset signed such a letter. As the hon. Gentleman said, it seems to be something to do with the fact that we do not have an elected mayor model; we also have a shortage of big businesses to match-fund the Government money. That is stating the bleeding obvious, because our region’s strength is our small and medium-sized enterprises. We have some excellent big companies, but we do not have the large number of big companies that a northern powerhouse, or whatever, has.

I very much hope that the Chancellor’s autumn statement tomorrow will reflect some of the serious concerns expressed in this debate. I also hope that the Communities Secretary will look very carefully at our letter, because there is a lot of anger about how we in the south-west have been treated, and that anger will only get worse if our next growth funding deal is even worse than we expected or is a lot worse than the previous two. I congratulate ​the hon. Member for South West Devon again on securing the debate; it is well overdue, and I hope the Government are listening. Our region must get the investment that it needs. Sadly, that has been symbolised again in the last 24 hours by its being cut off by flooding.

On Dementia Training for Homecare Workers

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab)

Did the Minister see last week’s shocking report from the Alzheimer’s Society showing that only 2% of people affected by dementia feel that their home carers have adequate training in dementia, that only 38% of home care workers have any dementia training at all, and that 71% did not have accredited training, with dreadful consequences for dementia sufferers and their families and carers? Does he accept that until social care is properly funded, this situation will just get worse?

Mr Marcus Jones

The right hon. Gentleman raises an important issue. By 2020, we expect all social care providers to provide appropriate training on dementia to all relevant staff. Over 100,000 care workers have already received such training. As I said with regard to the funding of adult social care, we have provided a package that will provide up to £3.5 billion of extra funding during this spending review period.

On Aleppo

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab)

I have a lot of time for this Minister, but he should not rewrite the history of what happened in 2013. As one of the Labour MPs who did support action against Assad back then, may I gently point out to him that two of his colleagues who were recently Foreign Office Ministers, a former Secretary of State on his own Benches, the Labour Front-Bench team and Labour Back Benchers are all calling for the Government to bring something back to the House on airdrops, so why does he not just do it?

Mr Ellwood

I will answer that in two parts. First, why do we not just do it? Because of the very challenging issues that we face. We do not have permission to send in aircraft. We saw what happened to the Russian aircraft that wandered into Turkish space. It is a volatile environment and we would need to gain the permissions at this point to make that happen. On the other part, I do not wish to antagonise the House and try to rewrite the history. It is as much the Government’s fault for failing to win across all parliamentarians. For me, that is the biggest error from our Government—we did not take with us Parliament itself. We collectively need to work together to ensure we are all up to date and, in that way, the Executive can be empowered to do such things, whether no-fly zones or airdrops. However, only with the will and support of Parliament can we make that move forward.

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