NEWS THIS WEEK – from Diane Abbott, MP for Hackney North & Stoke Newington

01 Mar 2017
The NHS lost letters scandal
Following the statement in the House of Commons by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt about the 700,000 patient letters lost by NHS Shared Business Services on Monday, Jonathan Ashworth MP, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, has written to Jeremy Hunt to demand further assurances for the public.
This whole episode is an absolute scandal. For a company partly owned by the Department of Health and a private company to fail to deliver over half a million NHS letters, many of which contain information critical to patient care, is astonishing. Patient safety will have been put seriously at risk as a result of this staggering incompetence.
Jeremy Hunt repeatedly blamed the problem on contractors but failed to acknowledge that this error was committed by a company part owned by his Department, over a period of several years during his time as Secretary of State.
As Jonathan asks in his letter, “How on earth did it happen that NHS Shared Business Services, failed to send so many letters and instead just left them lying in a warehouse? How much money and staff time has been wasted by this incident?"
Patients and their families will need much more reassurance that the Government actually has a plan to make sure this never happens again.

The Tories attack disabled people’s benefits as they only offer more damaging austerity 
Labour has called on Philip Hammond not to go ahead in next week’s budget with the £3.7bn worth of cuts to Personal Independence Payments (PIP) which will hit 160,000 disabled people.
The announcement, which was sneaked out last week, will mean 160,000 disabled people could see a loss in their income as a direct effect of the changes made by the government to how PIP is awarded.
Next week, when they present the budget, no doubt the Tories will try to make out that the economy and the public finances are doing better, however, they are planning to go ahead with a £3.7 billion cut to the disabled.
This time last year when the economy and public finances were not doing as well, and the then Chancellor George Osborne tried to cut PIP, Labour stopped him. And in his u-turn he claimed that he could “absorb” the cost of reversing this cut.
Additionally, the Government have been accused this last week of sneaking out an announcement asking departments to model cuts of 3 per cent and 6 per cent for 2019-20.
This is no way to manage public spending. As Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell MP put it “For all Hammond’s talk of ‘resetting’ the Tory Government’s economic policy last summer it is now beyond doubt that Hammond represents more of the same Tory austerity. Hammond urgently needs to explain why this announcement was made in the way it was and why after seven years of failed austerity he thinks more of the same will now work.”

The Tories’ immigration policy is a complete mess 
Last week in my capacity as Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary, I issued a press release in response to the release of the latest migration statistics, saying that “the Tories’ immigration policy is a complete mess. Despite their claims, they are still nowhere near to achieving their unworkable target.”
It continued that “The Tories blame the EU for this, but EU and non-EU long-term migration are the same, and each of them is way over 100,000 by themselves. The ONS are clear there was no statistically significant fall in net migration numbers. “
Indeed, the only significant drop in the statistics was in international students, who enrich our education system and the wider economy and whose decline will make us all worse off.
We need a progressive, evidence-based approach on immigration that puts the needs of our economy first, rather than trying to appease hard-right voices for purely party-political reasons.

Rising Hate Crime Shows Need to Challenge Scapegoating
Recently released analysis has confirmed that a majority of police forces in England and Wales saw recorded levels of hate crimes in the first full three months following the EU referendum.
Responding to the analysis, David Isaac, chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, warned that as the Brexit process continues, it would be advisable to ‘prepare for any possible spikes during the Brexit process’. He added that “The triggering of Article 50 is the next major milestone and we must do all we can to discourage hate attacks and to support people who feel at risk.”
It was welcome that cabinet minister Damian Green is on the record as saying that political debate in the UK is currently too abusive, yet now members of his government must do more in this regard. The Government’s own policies and rhetoric — both currently and over a number of years — have responsibility in this area. From go home vans, to demonising international students, to talking about a foreigner-free NHS this is a government whose policies are contributing to a climate of hate and fear.
You can read my full piece on the issue for Left Foot Forward here

The passing of Sir Gerald Kaufman MP
I was very sad to hear news of the passing of my colleague and Father of the House Sir Gerald Kaufman MP this week.
Gerald worked with Harold Wilson when he was Prime Minister in the 1960s and became a Labour MP in 1970. As Jeremy Corbyn put it in a statement, “Gerald was always a prominent figure in the party and in Parliament, with his dandy clothes and wonderful demeanour in speaking. “
All of us in Parliament will deeply miss Gerald and his commitment to a better world.

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