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House of Commons
On 30 March, Kevan joined the outgoing Chair of Visit England, Lady Penny Cobham, as she visited Beamish Museum.
Kevan recently showed his support for the WASPI campaign when they lobbied Parliament over changes to the state pension age which are adversely affecting women, and calling on the government to implement transitional arrangements.
On 28th March, Kevan urged health ministers to retain gluten-free prescriptions on the NHS, following reports that NHS Clinical Commissioners were planning to recommend that the Government reduce spending on some prescription items.
Evidence submitted to NHS England - and seen by the BBC - argues that the prescribing of gluten-free products dates back to the 1960s when there was not the choice there is now in supermarkets and shops.
But Coeliac UK, the charity that represents coeliac disease sufferers, warned that many budget and convenience stores, which are relied upon by the most vulnerable such as the elderly, those with disabilities and on low incomes, have virtually no provision. Further, the cost of gluten free substitute staples, like bread, can be up to six times the cost as their gluten-containing equivalents. This means that vulnerable people are disproportionately affected the most by this proposed change.
In November 2016, Kevan held a Westminster Hall debate to raise awareness of the current situation facing those suffering from coeliac disease and their access to gluten-free food prescriptions. During this debate, the Minister noted that Clinical Commissioning Groups may not be getting it right when it came to cutting gluten free prescribing, and committed to reviewing the situation, with a focus on ending the current postcode lottery for treatment support.
Coeliac disease affects 1 in 100 people in the UK, but under-diagnosis is a big problem and research suggests around 500,000 people have not yet been diagnosed.
Coeliac disease is a serious medical condition where the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues when gluten is eaten and, currently, the only medical treatment available is strict adherence to a gluten-free diet for life.
Since the late 1960s certain gluten-free food has been prescribed to those diagnosed with coeliac disease to prevent long term health complications, but this rationale is now being challenged by NHS Clinical Commissioners, under pressure to save money, despite their position lacking supporting evidence.
The annual cost of gluten-free food on prescription to NHS England was £25.7m in 2015. This was just 0.3% of the total prescribing budget of the NHS. Put another way, the cost to the NHS of maintaining gluten-free food prescriptions works out at £194 per patient per year.
Kevan is calling on the Government to consider this issue and maintain a minimum level of access, across England, to support people with coeliac disease who require a strict gluten free diet for life. This type of support helps patients with the cost burden of the gluten free diet and ensures they are able to maintain their treatment. Gluten-free prescriptions are particularly important for vulnerable patients, as highlighted in the NICE Quality Standard for Coeliac Disease, published in October 2016.
The NHS Scotland operates a National Gluten-Free Food Service, which is a pharmacy-led scheme based on pilots conducted in England before the NHS reorganisation.
Speaking in response to reports Kevan said:
“What NHS Clinical Commissioners are proposing is a false economy, because one hospital admission for a complication like osteoporosis, will cost more than the annual cost of prescriptions for an individual who adheres to a gluten-free diet.”
“Neither have they outlined policies that offer alternatives to safeguard patients, such as access to specialist dietary or nutritional advice, when a coeliac patient is taken out of the NHS’ responsibility because their gluten-free food prescription has been withdrawn.”
You can read or watch the Kevan’s November 2016 debate in full by clicking on the links below:
EARLY DAY MOTION
Kevan will tabling an EDM calling on the Government to maintain gluten-free prescriptions:
That this House recognises that people with coeliac disease, for whom the only treatment is a strict gluten-free diet for life, must have access to gluten-free prescriptions to maintain their health; notes that without access to prescriptions, the most vulnerable people, those on low incomes, the elderly and those with mobility problems will suffer most as confirmed by independent research; and considers that the potential health risk to patients, including osteoporosis, infertility, and cancer of the small bowel, may cost the NHS more in the long run; calls for the maintenance of gluten-free prescriptions on the NHS and; further calls for the consideration of a national gluten-free prescribing scheme for England and renewed efforts to improve recognition of coeliac disease by primary care health services.
On 28th March, Kevan joined representatives from the PCS union opposing the Government's plan to close DWP offices.
Vinovium House in Bishop Auckland, where the child support system is administered, is one of the DWP offices under the threat of closure. The office is an important employer in County Durham.
Speaking to members of PCS during their lobby of MPs, Kevan said:
"Ministers must listen to those calling for a rethink and should seriously consider rescinding their threat to close Vinovium House and continue to administer the Child Support System from this centre."
On 8 February, Kevan spoke in a debate on the future of UK naval shipbuilding.
During the debate, Kevan asked:
"A basic question needs to be asked about shipbuilding: do we want sovereign capability to produce complex warships in this country—yes or no? It is a very simple question that the Government need to answer to give reassurance about the future of the jobs and technical expertise."
Kevan went on to raise concerns about how the Government's inertia on developing a clear shipbuilding strategy could have a national impact, saying:
"Our supply chain goes way beyond the Clyde—there is a national footprint of companies in leading-edge technologies. We need to ask whether we want those skills in this country or whether we will just buy from abroad."
Later in his speech Kevan spoke about the Government's overall management of the defence budget. He said:
"The Government need to be honest about where they are with the equipment budget.
"Labour got lectures from the incoming coalition Government about how frugal they would be, in terms of ensuring that they did not over-commit on defence, but they are clearly doing that now. The shipbuilding strategy needs to be published soon.
"If we are going to answer yes to the question, “Do we want a sovereign capability for shipbuilding in this country?”, we will have to put the money behind it and ensure that the work is of a nature that allows the industry to develop its skills and retain that capability."
To watch Kevan's speech in full, or to read the debate, click on the links below:
Following the Supreme Court’s ruling, the Government must now seek the approval of Parliament before it can trigger the formal Article 50 process of leaving the European Union.
The Government has now introduced the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill, also known as the ‘Article 50 Bill’, to Parliament that would give it this approval. I will be voting for triggering article 50.
I accept the result of the referendum on the 23rd June 2016 concerning the UK’s membership of the EU and I therefore intend to vote for this Bill at its Second Reading in the House of Commons. It is clear to me that Britain’s future now lies outside the EU and our job is now to get the best deal possible for the UK.
Triggering Article 50 is just the start of the process for the UK to withdraw from the EU. It is important as negotiations go forward that we get a deal which includes tariff-free access for UK goods to the EU, which is particularly important for the North East’s economy, and that we protect those employment rights which have been gained from Europe.
I also feel that in order to give stability to EU nationals living here and UK nationals living in EU, the Government should seek an early resolution for the protections of their rights.
It is vital that the UK secures the best exit deal from the EU in the negotiations that will follow the triggering of Article 50 – one that protects jobs, living standards and workers’ rights – and I do not believe the Government should be given a blank cheque for the high risk approach it has chosen to take.
I will support amendments to the Article 50 Bill designed to ensure that the Government sticks to a number of principles throughout the exit negotiations. These will include securing full tariff-free and impediment-free access to the Single Market, protecting workers’ rights and confirming the legal status of EU citizens currently in the UK.
I will also support amendments to ensure effective parliamentary scrutiny of the progress being made on negotiations, and to provide a meaningful vote on the final deal before the Government agrees it with the EU.
I am also aware of a number of campaigns expressing support for continued membership of the EU and calls for there to be a second referendum. However, I do not agree with the need for a second referendum.
It is important that Parliament holds the Government to account throughout the negotiation, and seeks to ensure the Prime Minister secures the best deal for the whole country.
My next advice surgeries will take place on Saturday 7 January at the following locations:
9:00am - 10:30am St. Mary’s & St. Cuthbert’s Parish Centre, Church Chare, Chester-le-Street
11:00am - 11:45am Great Lumley Methodist Church, Front Street, Great Lumley
12:00noon- 12:30pm The Library on Plawsworth Road, Sacriston
1:00pm - 2:30pm The Venue, Wear Road, Stanley
All constituents are welcome, and no appointment is necessary.
Please also click below to see my latest newsletter.
With best wishes for Christmas and the New Year,
Kevan Jones MP
On 18 December, Kevan called in at PACT House in Stanley where a fundraiser was being held for Stray Aid, a County Durham charity working to rescue and rehome abandoned or lost dogs. Below, Kevan is pictured with Dave Clarke from Durham Police.
On 18 December, Kevan was pleased to attend the Kinship Carers Christmas Party at South Moor Golf Club.
Below Kevan is pictured with Lyn Boyd from Kinship Carers.
On 2 December, Kevan visited the Tesco Store in Chester-le-Street to show his support for their latest Food Collection campaign. Below, Kevan is pictured with staff and volunteers at the store.