Science and Technology Committee Highlights

 

The hearing concerned genomics and genome editing in the NHS. Genomics is the branch of molecular biology concerned with the structure, function, evolution, and mapping of genomes. Genome editing is a type of genetic engineering in which DNA is inserted, deleted or replaced in the genome of a living organism using engineered nucleases, or “molecular scissors”.

The first set of witnesses consisted of Dr Hilary Burton, Consultant in Public Health, PHG Foundation, Professor Sian Ellard, Clinical Programme Director, South West NHS Genomic Medicine Centre, and Fiona Murphy, Director, National Services Division, NHS National Services Scotland, and Member of the Scottish Genomes Partnership.

The second set of witnesses consisted of Lord O’Shaughnessy, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health, Professor Dame Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer for England, and Professor Patrick Chinnery, Professor of Neurology, Cambridge University.

The below question concerned the pricing for commercial enterprises to access NHS held genome data.

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Darren calls on the government to support the Henbury Loop

Darren Jones has spoken in today’s (29th November) House of Commons Ministerial Rail Update to call for proper investment in the local rail network, specifically the Henbury Loop line. He called for funding to be secured for an independent study to ensure the longer-term delivery of the Loop.

Darren has also written to the West of England Combined Authority Mayor, Tim Bowles, to request that funding is allocated to progress an independent business study into the Henbury Loop.

The Henbury Loop line would join the existing Severn Beach line that runs from the Temple Meads through Clifton, Seamills, Shirehampton and Avonmouth to Severn Beach. The new loop would see new rail stations created in Henbury and the Horfield/Ashley Down area.

 

Darren writes to Digital Minister to call for stronger cyber security regulations

Following the Uber hack and loss of 57m data records, Darren wrote to Digital Minister Matt Hancock calling for extended cyber security regulations for essential digital services.

Read Darren’s full letter here:

 

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MP backs Meningitis Now Campaign

Bristol North West MP, Darren Jones has signed up to promote meningitis awareness and vaccination take-up with GPs, following a Parliamentary reception organised last week by charity Meningitis Now.

The charity is campaigning to increase the take-up of the lifesaving Men ACWY vaccine, which is available free to school leavers aged 17 to 18 and first-time university students up to the age of 25. Take-up is currently around 33% and 1.5million young people are at risk.

Darren said:

“ The low uptake of the Men ACWY vaccine is very worrying, especially as we move towards the peak season for bacterial meningitis. I’ll be writing to local GP practices to urge them to do more to promote awareness and encourage young people to have the vaccination.

It is vitally important that students protect themselves with the Men ACWY vaccine and learn the signs and symptoms of the disease. It only takes a few minutes and it could save theirs or their friend’s life.

You can find out more about the symptoms and signs to look out for here“.

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MP responds to Council’s Library Consultation News

Bristol North West MP, Darren Jones has responded to the news that Bristol City Council has delayed a decision on library closures across Bristol until further research has been undertaken.

Darren said:

“I am pleased the council will be taking more time to review the best way forward for Bristol’s libraries.

Following the Libraries Conference I hosted in September, I wrote to the Mayor with feedback from groups representing Bristol North West libraries. We advocated for further time and research before any irreversible decisions were made. I am delighted further time has now been given to support a longer-term strategy.

The council are under enormous financial pressure to make savings however, libraries play such a vital role in our communities we must look to safeguard them for future generations”.

 

 

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Darren shares views on protection of bees

Following constituent enquiries in relation to the use of neonicotinoids and bees, Darren has shared his thoughts:

Darren Jones, MP for Bristol North West said:

“The importance of pollinators to our food supply, biodiversity and economy is clear and I share my constituent’s concern about declining bee numbers.

I support the current European-wide ban on the use of neonicotinoids on crops that are attractive to bees and other pollinators because I believe that it is a proportionate response to the mounting scientific evidence which demonstrates the risk of neonicotinoids to bees.

The UK Government has said that current environmental regulations – including the ban on neonicotinoids – will remain in place until we leave the EU. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is reviewing the scientific evidence and there are draft proposals for a full EU ban on the three most commonly used neonicotinoids. I support this ban and at the last General Election I stood on a manifesto which committed to protect our bees by prohibiting neonicotinoids as soon as our EU relationship allows us to do so.

It is vital that we take a science-led approach to pesticide use and consider how best to support farmers, protect wildlife and reverse the decline of pollinators. I would like to see further research into identifying suitable substitutes to neonicotinoids and support for integrated pest management measures which would benefit the farming community without posing risks to the environment, and human or animal life.

I can assure my constituents that I will be urging the UK Government to show leadership within the EU by following evidence-based policy and pressing for a ban on bee-harming neonicotinoids. The UK Government must set out how it intends to ensure that existing environmental protections are maintained and enhanced once the UK has left the EU.”

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MP Responds to Minister’s visit to Southmead

Darren Jones, MP for Bristol North West shared his thoughts following a visit by Jeremy Hunt to his constituency:

“I welcome yesterday’s (23rd November) visit by the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt. I hope his visit has given him a true picture of the critical issues facing the NHS – we were promised £350m a week for the NHS if we voted for Brexit. Instead we get £350m for the whole of winter whilst the cost of Brexit spirals by another £3bn. Jeremy Hunt and this Conservative government need to start putting patients before Brexit party politics.

The staff at Southmead Hospital, and across the NHS, are working in increasingly difficult conditions – facing rising demand, complex medical needs alongside reducing real terms funding and resources. This is of course, in addition, to a pay cap that is undermining the value we place in these staff, an under-funded mental health system and social care services in crisis. Yesterday’s budget announced a £2.8 billion injection into the NHS over the next 2.5 years, this falls far short of the Chief Executive’s view that £4 billion was needed to stop rising wait lists and significant impact on patients. Of this funding, only £350 million will be available to help hospitals cope with the inevitable pressures over winter, a situation that last year was deemed a humanitarian crisis by the British Red Cross.

There is also the uncertainty of Brexit and its impact on the sense of job security that the NHS’ EU staff have. At least 615 of Southmead’s staff are from the EU, with 40% of these working as nurses. Evidence shows many EU nursing staff are weighing up their employment options and the number of EU nationals seeking nursing bursaries has plummeted by 2700 since last year. It is also only days since the BMA reported that one in 5 EU doctors have solid plans to leave the NHS. This situation is ludicrous and the Government can’t idly sit back waiting for the fall-out – the NHS needs strong management from Government and a funding package that matches the demand and real terms costs – if there is money for Brexit there must be money for our most treasured public service.

Each winter demand at A and E’s across the country rises and Southmead will be no different, given the minimal funding boost awarded yesterday by Government, I am very concerned we will once again see some of the most vulnerable in society waiting for hours and/or laid out on beds in corridors. This is of real concern to my constituency as the closest alternative hospital’s A and E department (in Weston-Super- Mare) is still closed due to unsafe staffing levels and will undoubtedly have some impact on Southmead.

I would also urge Mr Hunt to consider whether some of our most dedicated and hardworking public servants are being paid adequately for their work and if the 1% public sector pay cap can be morally justified any longer – I am quite clear it cannot be and government should not be waiting for an independent pay body to have to tell it so”.

 

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Darren backs Road Safety Week

Road Safety Week, coordinated by the road safety charity Brake, is the UK’s leading event to promote safer road use. This year Road Safety Week focuses calls on all road users to “Speed Down” to help stop the five deaths that still happen every day on UK roads – and particularly to protect people cycling and walking.

Darren Jones, MP for bristol North West said:

“After the tragic loss of a pedestrian’s life on a Henbury road last weekend this year’s Road Safety Week feels very close to home. After years of consistent progress by Labour governments in reducing deaths and serious injuries, sharp increases in recent years have alarmed road safety experts and campaigners. Latest government figures show that in 2016 there was a 4% increase in the numbers of people killed on our roads, the highest level since 2011, and an 8.5% increase in the number of people killed or seriously injured. I am calling on the Government to end complacency on road safety and restore targets to reduce deaths and serious injuries on the roads.

The seemingly never-ending reduction in local authority funding has also severely impacted the council’s ability to introduce new road safety schemes or traffic calming measures on minor roads and estates. This is yet another knock-on effect of austerity politics.

With the announcement of £80million additional transport funding for the West of England region in yesterday’s budget, I will be continuing to push for a fully- integrated transport system across Bristol North West – one that makes public transport accessible and affordable and mitigates the gridlock we can expect from the thousands of new homes on the ‘northern fringe’ if proper action is not taken. “

Darren stands up for Britain’s place in Europe during the EU Withdrawal Bill debate day 3

You can watch all of Darren’s contributions to day 3 of the EU (Withdrawal) Bill debate below, including his speech defending the Charter of Fundamental Rights.