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.

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:

 

Science and Technology Committee – 21st of November

The hearing subject was research integrity.

The first set of witnesses was: Professor David Hand, Royal Statistical Society, Dr Damian Pattinson, Vice President of Publishing Innovation, Research Square, and Wendy Appleby, Registrar and Head of Student & Registry Services, University College London.

The second set of witnesses was: Dr Trish Groves, Director of Academic Outreach, BMJ, Dr Elizabeth Moylan, Senior Editor for Peer Review Strategy and Innovation, BioMedCentral (representing the Committee on Publication Ethics), Catriona Fennell, Director of Publishing Services, Elsevier (representing The Publishers Association), and Dr Alyson Fox, Director of Grants Management, Wellcome Trust.

 

Highlights from Darren at the Science and Tech Committee, 14th of November

The second set of witnesses consisted of Silkie Carlo, Senior Advocacy Officer, Liberty, Dr Sandra Wachter, Lawyer and Researcher in Data Ethics, AI, and Robotics at the Oxford Internet Institute, and Dr Pavel Klimov, Chair of the Law Society’s Technology and the Law Group.

 

The subject of the Committee meeting was algorithms in decision-making.

The first set of witnesses consisted of Hetan Shah, Executive Director, Royal Statistical Society, Professor Nick Jennings, Royal Academy of Engineering, Dr Adrian Weller, Turing Fellow, Alan Turing Institute, and Professor Louise Amoore, Durham University.

The second set of witnesses consisted of Silkie Carlo, Senior Advocacy Officer, Liberty, Dr Sandra Wachter, Lawyer and Researcher in Data Ethics, AI, and Robotics at the Oxford Internet Institute, and Dr Pavel Klimov, Chair of the Law Society’s Technology and the Law Group.

Highlights of Darren at Science and Technology Committee on 01/11/17

The meeting yesterday was on genomics and genome editing in the NHS. Genomics is the process of using information about an individual’s  DNA in their healthcare, including to make diagnosis and treatment decisions. Genome editing is the altering of peoples’ genes to promote better outcomes for them. This inquiry is focused on these concepts’ potential future use in the NHS.

The first panel was made up of industry representatives. Darren asked them about how the UK can remain competitive in different parts of genomics and genome editing, as well as data regulation in relation to these concepts.

The second panel was made up of people from within the NHS. Darren asked about the infrastructure and funding required to use genomes and genomic editing within the NHS.

Darren Jones MP speaks out about sexual harassment in Parliament

Darren was in the chamber today to hear Harriet Harman MP’s Urgent Question on Sexual Harassment in politics. He spoke out on the light-hearted approach taken by some MPs to the serious allegations which are arising.

 

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Darren receives response from HMRC on childcare vouchers fiasco

Darren has received a response from HMRC after he raised concerns about problems parents were having applying to governments’ new 30-hours free childcare. With the website crashing and problems with HMRC’s own phone line, parents were finding it difficult to apply before the 31st August deadline. Darren challenged this with HMRC direct.

The response from John Harrison, Chief Executive of HMRC told Darren “where parents have experienced persistent technical difficulties and the 31st deadline, we provided them with a 30 hours free childcare code manually. We continued to issue these codes into early September so that those parents who applied before 31st August, but were unable to speak to us before the deadline, could get a code”.

In response to the letter Darren said:

“Whilst it is good news that parents who were not issued a code by 31st August, because of faults with the HMRC website, can use codes sent to them in September, I still have widespread concerns about the government’s flagship childcare scheme.  Parents are struggling to make the 30 hours per week childcare (over 38 weeks of the year) support their year-round, and often full time, employment. It has also been widely publicised that the cost of childcare is rising far above increases in earnings. To strengthen our economy, we need a childcare system that supports working families, I will continue to raise these issues with government. Just today a new study by Admiral Loans has found Bristol parents are hit the hardest of any city when childcare costs are considered against average earnings –  costs account for a staggering 55% of average earnings – this is unacceptable and certainly not a sustainable situation for working families”.

 

Darren asks about the cost of the 2017 UK general election

As I found out by asking the government, the cost of the 2017 General Election was £140,850,000 – that’s money spent by the Prime Minister to try and shore up her majority. This cost could be reduced by using digital democracy tools.

I asked:

What was the cost to the public purse of holding the general election 2017?

Chris Skidmore MP, Parliamentrary Under Secretary for the Cabinet Office, replied:

The Parliamentary Secretary at the Cabinet Office notified Parliament of the forecast cost

of the UK general election of £140,850,000.

17th of October Science and Technology Select Committee Highlights

Today I attended the Science and Technology committee, where we interviewed Government Science advisers. We also interviewed Jo Johnson MP with regards to his role as Minister for Science. Highlights of what I said are available below:

 

Darren votes against Conservative control of all Select Committees

Despite not gaining a Parliamentary majority at the last election, the Conservative Party have taken majority control of all Select Committees through a House of Commons motion which only passed due to DUP votes. Ordinarily, Select Committee make up reflects that of the house.

Darren voted against this motion.