Eating Disorders Awareness Week

Patricia Gibson Excerpts
Thursday 29th February 2024

(4 months, 2 weeks ago)

Westminster Hall
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Patricia Gibson Portrait Patricia Gibson (North Ayrshire and Arran) (SNP)
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I wish to begin, as others have, by congratulating the hon. Member for Bath (Wera Hobhouse) on bringing forward this debate in Eating Disorders Awareness Week. I am very glad to once again participate in this debate, as I have done in the past. When I have spoken in this debate previously, I have always begun by pointing out that I first became aware of eating disorder conditions in the 1980s, when Karen Carpenter died, and then again in 1999, when Lena Zavaroni died. Both women had struggled with eating disorders for a number of years and sadly succumbed to them, when they ought to have had so many years ahead of them.

An estimated 1.25 million people across the UK face a similar struggle. Eating disorders, as we have heard, do not respect age, ethnicity, gender or background. Indeed, a quarter of those with eating disorders are men.

The mortality rate is high, especially for those with anorexia, which has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, and one in six people with binge eating disorder attempt to end their lives. Other mental health challenges can often accompany eating disorders, such as depression, self-harm, anxiety and obsessive behaviours. Eating is fundamental to survival, so those with eating disorders typically develop severe physical health problems. Yet we know that, with the right support and treatment, we can change lives, and early intervention provides the best chance for recovery.

Eating Disorders Awareness Week this year seeks to highlight avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder, or ARFID, which is a relatively new term. It is different from other restrictive eating disorders in that it describes a pattern of eating that avoids certain foods or food groups entirely and/or is restricted in quantity. Sometimes those with it eat very small amounts. Avoidant and restrictive eating is not related to a lack of available food, cultural norms or even fasting for religious reasons, and it is not related to a person’s view of their body shape or a specific purpose, such as losing weight. Nor does it feature some of the other behaviours that can be associated with anorexia or bulimia, such as over-exercising. ARFID is often dismissed as picky eating, but the crucial difference between what we might call a picky eater and a child with ARFID is that a picky eater will not starve themselves to death. A child with ARFID very well might.

While the exact causes of ARFID are unknown, it is thought that people who develop it do so because of sensory sensitivity, fear of negative consequences or a lack of interest in eating. For example, they might be very sensitive to the taste, texture or appearance of certain types of food, or have had a distressing experience with food, such as choking, vomiting, infant acid reflex or other gastrointestinal conditions. That may cause the person to develop feelings of fear and anxiety around food, leading them to avoid it. It does not discriminate; it can affect anyone of any age, including even babies, and can be diagnosed in children as young as three.

Researchers know much less about what puts someone at risk of developing ARFID, but it has been discovered that people with autism spectrum conditions are much more likely to develop the condition, as are those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and intellectual disabilities. In addition, children who do not outgrow what we might call “normal picky eating”, or in whom picky eating is severe, appear to be more likely to develop ARFID. Many children with ARFID have a co-occurring anxiety disorder, and they are also at high risk for other psychiatric disorders.

According to Beat, the UK’s largest eating disorder charity,

“There has been a sevenfold increase in calls to our Helpline”

related specifically to ARFID over the past five years. The variable service provision for the condition is due partly to the lack of research into treatment. The Scottish Government have provided Beat with more than £600,000 to provide a range of support for those affected by an eating disorder, but performance still varies across health boards. There must be no complacency. To help tackle that, a consultation was undertaken on the draft national specification for the care and treatment of eating disorders in Scotland to ensure that support and services meet the needs of those living with an eating disorder, wherever and whoever they are in Scotland. The responses to the consultation will be considered carefully.

When a person has an eating disorder of any kind, they need compassionate support with their mental and physical health. Their loved ones also need support, because this is a condition that affects whole families and not just individuals. Indeed, very often, it is close loved ones who are the first to pick up on the fact that their beloved family member has an eating disorder. There is nothing worse for them than watching their loved one’s mental and physical health deteriorate before their eyes from a condition that is often not well understood and, sadly, not always sufficiently supported through prompt and sensitive treatment.

I am glad that we are once again having this important debate on this condition in Eating Disorders Awareness Week and taking the opportunity to raise awareness of eating disorders in general and, this year, of avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder. Much more research needs to be done into that, and I confess that I knew almost nothing about it before I started preparing for the debate. I hope debates like this one will help those living with an eating disorder and their loved ones to feel less alone, because it can be an isolating illness for individuals and their families, which can only compound the pain and fear that this condition often generates.

Oral Answers to Questions

Patricia Gibson Excerpts
Tuesday 5th December 2023

(7 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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Andrea Leadsom Portrait Dame Andrea Leadsom
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My hon. Friend is absolutely right: there is a lot more that we can do. We are working at pace to see what announcements we can make on the dental recovery plan as soon as possible. In the meantime, she will be aware that, in the south-west, NHS England has commissioned additional urgent dental care appointments that people can access via NHS 111.

Patricia Gibson Portrait Patricia Gibson (North Ayrshire and Arran) (SNP)
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T7. Last week, the former Health Secretary admitted at the covid inquiry that sick pay across the UK is “far too low”. It is far lower than the European average and encourages people to go to work when they should be getting better. Does the Secretary of State agree with her predecessor? What discussions will she have with her Cabinet colleagues to improve the inadequate sick pay system?

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
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I will not comment on evidence from the covid inquiry, given that it is an independent inquiry. However, on the general principle of encouraging people back into work, we have the plans set out by the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and the Chancellor at the autumn statement. We want to encourage people back into work and to support them when they fall ill and need help from the state.

Oral Answers to Questions

Patricia Gibson Excerpts
Tuesday 6th June 2023

(1 year, 1 month ago)

Commons Chamber
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Neil O'Brien Portrait Neil O’Brien
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It was an absolute pleasure to meet the Modha family and see the inspirational work happening in my hon. Friend’s constituency. In our primary care recovery plan we are learning some lessons from that work, particularly about focusing GPs’ time on the jobs only they can do—hence the investment in the extra 29,000 additional roles reimbursement scheme staff, the detailed plan in the primary care recovery plan to improve communication between hospitals and GPs, the cutting back of unnecessary bureaucracy, and the freeing up of resources by simplifying the investment and impact fund and the quality and outcomes framework. It is brilliant to learn from the inspirational work happening in his constituency.

Patricia Gibson Portrait Patricia Gibson (North Ayrshire and Arran) (SNP)
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Recent research from the Nuffield Trust shows that Brexit—a Brexit supported by both the Government and the Labour party, it has to be said—has worsened the shortage of NHS staff across the UK. Indeed, it has led to more than 4,000 European doctors choosing not to work in the national health services across the UK, due to higher costs, increased bureaucracy and uncertainty over visas. Can the Minister tell me whether that is one of the success stories of Brexit that we keep hearing about?

Neil O'Brien Portrait Neil O’Brien
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International recruitment is up. In fact, we have 38,000 more doctors and 54,000 more nurses in the NHS than in 2010. In England at least, we are taking every step we can to draw on that international talent and we are using it to grow staffing in the NHS.

Hospice Sector: Fiscal Support and Cost of Living

Patricia Gibson Excerpts
Thursday 2nd March 2023

(1 year, 4 months ago)

Westminster Hall
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Patricia Gibson Portrait Patricia Gibson (North Ayrshire and Arran) (SNP)
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I beg to move,

That this House has considered fiscal support to the hospice sector and increases in the cost of living.

I am delighted to have secured this debate on fiscal support for hospices and the hospice sector. Hospices across the UK care for some of the most vulnerable people in society and their families. I commend all the healthcare professionals and support staff, as well as the volunteers, who work in our hospices, such as Ayrshire Hospice. Ayrshire Hospice operates a number of charity shops, including two in my constituency in Largs and Kilwinning. We owe a debt of gratitude to all those who work in and for our hospices for the care they provide to our loved ones.

Some 300,000 people across the UK are cared for in hospices in their final weeks and days. Importantly, the families of those in the final stages of their life also receive vital support from hospices. I know this debate matters to Members across the House, and I want to congratulate the all-party parliamentary group on hospice and end of life care on its work. I also congratulate its co-chair, the hon. Member for Darlington (Peter Gibson), who wanted to be here but was unable to be. Last night, the all-party group launched a report on the impact of covid-19 on dying, death and bereavement. The report makes for quite harrowing reading, and I hope the Government will act on its recommendations. The report, launched by the hon. Gentleman, coincides timeously with this debate. I want to thank Hospice UK and Marie Curie for the excellent briefings they have provided to help inform today’s proceedings.

Since I was first elected in 2015, I have done as much as I can to highlight the challenges of bereavement and bereavement-related issues. Part of that conversation, of course, is hospices, which provide specialised care for terminally ill people, palliative care and incalculable levels of support for those watching their loved one pass away without suffering or pain—thanks, in great part, to the work of hospice staff. That is important because bereavement is debilitating in so many ways, and how a loved one dies affects how we grieve and the nature of that grief. We know that profound and persistent grief—complex grief disorder—can easily derail the lives of the bereaved and the wider family unit, because how a person dies is unfortunately very much part of how we remember them.

End of life care impacts not just the patient, but all their loved ones. The specialised support of compassionate palliative care cannot be easily replicated in a hospital setting. That is why hospices exist and why this debate matters. The need for hospice services is greater now than ever. More and more people have been developing serious illnesses since screening for diseases was badly disrupted during the pandemic, and many patients and families have subsequently found themselves referred for hospice care. The need for hospice care and palliative care is expected to increase over the coming years. Hospice UK is deeply concerned that the sector will simply and increasingly be unable to cope with that demand.

More generally, hospices are woven into the very fabric of bereavement services across the UK, and it is truly horrifying that they are facing an existential crisis. The reasons for that existential crisis are easy to understand. Hospices across the UK are facing up to fivefold increases in their energy costs. For some sectors, rationing and reducing energy consumption may be an option, but for hospices it is clearly not. They need to keep medical equipment running, and those in their care need to be in appropriately heated environments.

Frankly, no one can understand why, as of 1 April, hospices will be eligible for the same level of reduced support as other sectors under the new energy bills discount scheme—the same level of support as offered to pubs and restaurants. No one wishes to diminish the important role of pubs and restaurants, which are important parts of our community infrastructure, but we can hardly compare the services provided by a hospice to those provided by a pub. There is no equivalence, and for them to be eligible for the same level of energy support is, quite frankly, bewildering.

Moreover, hospices cannot pass on increased costs to customers. That is simply not an option for them, but it is always an option, at least to some extent, for private business. The reduced level of energy support that will come into effect on 1 April is so inadequate for hospices as to threaten their very existence. It cannot be the Government’s intention to leave hospices so exposed during the cost of living crisis that they simply cannot continue to operate. I hope that the Minister will listen carefully to the concerns that I and other participants in the debate will raise, and that this important matter will be addressed in the upcoming Budget.

At this juncture, let me quote the chief executive of Sue Ryder, who has thrown the challenges our hospices face into stark relief. Heidi Travis said:

“I think it will come as a surprise to many that their local hospice is reliant on the generosity of members of the public who choose to donate or fundraise.

Put plainly, in order to pay the salaries of our doctors and nurses who provide expert care, pain and symptom management to people at the end of their lives, we rely on people buying second-hand clothes from our charity shops or running a marathon and asking their friends and family for sponsorship. It is unfathomable that such a critical part of our healthcare system is hanging by a thread.”

That is a stark assessment of the challenges that hospices are dealing with. Charity shops are an important part of fundraising that I am sure we all try to support. There is no disputing, however, that Heidi Travis makes an important point. The way hospices are funded would be unacceptable in any other area of healthcare. Imagine, for example, if maternity services relied on second-hand jean sales to fund care. There would rightfully be uproar. Yet to care for dying people, hospices must rely on increasingly fragile sources of income at a time when their costs are soaring. NHS services have their energy bills paid for by the Government, but hospices are—uniquely, among providers of essential care—unreasonably expected to absorb astronomical and eye-watering energy costs so that they can continue to carry out the important work they do.

It is vital to remember that hospices receive only about 30% of their funding from statutory sources—in Scotland the figure is 40%. That is simply too low, and it is despite the fact that they are a critical part of our health and care system, play a role in reducing pressure on our NHS, and provide support and training for health and care workers. On average, two thirds of adult hospice income and four fifths of children’s hospice income is raised through fundraising. At best, that is an uncertain funding model, and as the cost of living bites deeper into household income, our communities’ ability to provide even that charitable support is diminished.

Hospices also need to keep pace with NHS pay rises. They spend 71% of their expenditure on staff, and as pay rates understandably rise to keep up with inflation, they have to fund the spiralling costs. The Scottish Government provided an additional £16.9 million to hospices during the pandemic, and have committed to ensuring that any and all consequential funding for them will be allocated to the sector in full. However, hospices desperately need to know that from 1 April—a few short weeks away—the Chancellor will deliver support for hospices in the spring statement to ensure they can continue to deliver their essential services every single day of every single year.

The services that our hospices provide cannot be valued simply in pounds, shillings and pence. They provide a peaceful and painless passing to our terminally ill loved ones, and we all agree that we cannot put a price on that. They need help to pay their costs, not least their energy costs, beyond the offer in the energy bills support scheme. The Government need a more comprehensive understanding and appreciation of the vital work they do, and must provide support to develop a more sustainable, secure funding model across the board. If we do not properly support and value our hospices, we are in danger of losing them. The situation is astonishingly stark.

Let us hope that the spring Budget will deliver a more sustainable, long-term, secure funding model for our hospices, because that is becoming increasingly urgent. If we can secure that, everyone across the UK, regardless of where their lives happen to end, will be able to access the best possible end-of-life care. I ask the Minister: who would want anything less for their loved one? I hope that, when he has heard hon. Members’ arguments, he will provide some hope and assurance to our beleaguered hospice sector.

--- Later in debate ---
Patricia Gibson Portrait Patricia Gibson
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I thank everybody who has turned up to participate in this important debate and made important contributions from various parts of the UK about the challenges in their constituencies. I thank the Minister for coming along; I know that this is not his exact portfolio area, but I thank him for his answers.

We have heard from across the House about the invaluable support that hospices provide in helping our loved ones pass away free from pain and suffering, the importance of that for those left behind—the bereaved—and the intensity of the grief they suffer. It was remiss of me not to say this in my opening speech, but I specifically requested, as did the hospice sector, that a Treasury Minister respond to this debate. Despite that request—this does not reflect on the Minister who turned out—my debate was immediately passed to the Department of Health and Social Care. Given that the motion refers to “fiscal support”, that was disappointing, and I am sure that the hospice sector will share my disappointment. That is no meant as any disrespect to the Minister who has turned up. The reason why it was important for a Treasury Minister to be here is that we are on the verge of the spring Budget, and it was hoped that this would be a good time to catch their ear.

We have heard from every speaker today about concerns that the hospice sector has been classified in the same category as botanical gardens, pubs and restaurants for energy support from 1 April. The Minister said that that is because the businesses receiving additional support are energy-intensive and in the traded sector. The common-sense response to that is that we therefore need a specific sector for hospices. If they do not fit into the sectors to which additional support can be given, they deserve to be made a special case. I know that the Minister cannot speak on behalf of the Treasury, but I am concerned that the call for additional energy support for hospices does not appear to have made any progress. I am sure that everybody who participated in this debate will want to continue to pursue that.

I hope that the Minister will feed back to his colleagues in the Department for Health and Social Care that there is no denying that, whatever progress we make or do not make on energy bills, we need a more sustainable, long-term, comprehensive funding plan for hospices. They are struggling to survive. I mentioned the comment from the chief executive of Sue Ryder about hospices relying for essential income on bake sales, selling second-hand clothes and sponsored walks. All those things are very worthy, and they make a valuable contribution, but by themselves they inherently mean that the financial stability of hospices is undermined. As the hon. Member for Twickenham (Munira Wilson) said, long-term planning for the hospice sector is important.

I hope that the Minister will agree with the need for a long-term plan, and that he has paid close attention to the representations made across the Chamber today. No Government want to preside over the demise and loss of our hospice sector, and I am sure that the current Government do not want to be in that position. That is why we need urgent action now to save our hospices.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That this House has considered fiscal support to the hospice sector and increases in the cost of living.

Oral Answers to Questions

Patricia Gibson Excerpts
Tuesday 6th December 2022

(1 year, 7 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Neil O'Brien Portrait Neil O’Brien
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I have mentioned the fact that the number of NHS dentists was up 2% to 2.3% last year, as well as the extra £50 million and the reforms we have made to the contract, but we will go further. We want to address those areas, and particularly rural areas, where more provision is urgently needed.

Patricia Gibson Portrait Patricia Gibson (North Ayrshire and Arran) (SNP)
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The chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners has expressed concerns about patients with chronic conditions such as asthma, diabetes and even serious mental health conditions refusing sick notes because they cannot afford time off work. What discussions has the Secretary of State had with Cabinet colleagues about the adequacy of statutory sick pay during this cost of living crisis?

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
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I refer the hon. Lady to the autumn statement, in which my right hon. Friend the Chancellor set out a wide range of support packages to help with the cost of living across the United Kingdom, including the cost of energy. That is part of wider discussions that we have on a regular basis with the Treasury.

Baby Loss and Safe Staffing in Maternity Care

Patricia Gibson Excerpts
Tuesday 25th October 2022

(1 year, 8 months ago)

Westminster Hall
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Patricia Gibson Portrait Patricia Gibson (North Ayrshire and Arran) (SNP)
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I am pleased to participate this year in what has become a tradition of debating baby loss. I thank the hon. Member for Hartlepool (Jill Mortimer) for opening the debate; I participate as someone who suffered a stillbirth at full term and who almost died in the process.

Over the last year or so, I have gone to more funerals than I have in the rest of my 54 years of life so far. When we gather to bury our dead at funerals, we talk about them: we talk about what they were like, their foibles and their character, using anecdotes told with affection and laughter. They are mourned and remembered for the person they were. But with stillbirth, there are no such stories. Over time, you simply learn to live with a loss that changes you forever. At the funeral, all there is is a life unlived. There are no amusing anecdotes, there are no character foibles to remember, and there is no personality yet formed upon which to base memories. There is only the madness of grief for a life whose promise and potential have been unfilled and unrealised—a much longed-for and much wanted child, born fully grown and often otherwise perfectly healthy, dead before it can take its first breath. “Born sleeping” is so apt because such babies look exactly like that—a perfectly fully grown, normal baby, but one who is just so unnaturally quiet, appearing fast asleep, with a room all ready at home, prepared and waiting for their arrival. Your very stake in your future is gone.

I want to talk about pre-eclampsia, because it is the cause of so many stillbirths every year. To make an impact on stillbirths, we really need to learn and understand more about this condition. Its most deadly form is HELLP—haemolysis, elevated liver enzymes and low platelets—syndrome. What is interesting is that pre-eclampsia is associated with very serious long-term health risks for women who develop it during pregnancy. They are at long-term risk of chronic hypertension, ischaemic heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, kidney disease, diabetes mellitus, thromboembolism, hypothyroidism and even impaired memory. Who is monitoring the long-term health of women who have suffered pre-eclampsia? Why are the longer-term risks not specifically monitored? Women in those risk categories are not even told that they face those risks and they are simply unaware of the long-term health challenges they may face once they are discharged from hospital. How can that be right?

People talk, quite rightly, about stillbirths being a product of health inequality, but we also know that too often they happen as a result of systematic errors in care. Sometimes, the most basic red flags are simply overlooked, or at worst, ignored. We only have to see the recent, and frankly horrific, independent reports—the latest of which came out only last week regarding maternity care in East Kent, Nottingham, Shrewsbury, Telford and, to my deep regret, the Greater Glasgow and Clyde health board. In my experience, far from seeking to review procedures and learn lessons, that board simply lawyered up to seek to intimate me—and who knows how many other bereaved parents—into silence. It failed to silence me, but I have absolutely no reason whatever to believe that it has learned anything from the systematic errors that led to the death of an otherwise perfectly healthy, 8 lb 5 oz baby. Staffing was not the issue; it was systematic failures, negligence and incompetence that killed my baby and almost killed me.

In all these cases—some publicised recently—bereaved parents all say they encounter the same thing: cover-ups, ranks closing and few, if any, answers—only the isolation and bewilderment of emptiness. I have no confidence that this situation will change, which is why independent reviews are necessary. Health boards and health trusts seem simply unable or unwilling to admit errors without being forced to do so, and that is unacceptable and inexcusable. Despite the warm words, I have seen no evidence that that situation will change.

The bereavement care pathway, which many have mentioned today, is a very positive thing. If parents are to be listened to, their questions must be answered without fear of serious mistakes being uncovered. If there are serious mistakes to be found, they should be found; all else is cosmetic and, quite frankly, patronisingly pointless.

We have made some progress since the first debate I secured about stillbirth in 2016. There is now much greater willingness to talk about the babies whose lives are snuffed out before they can begin. The more that bereaved parents feel able to talk about stillbirth, the less isolated they will feel, but the isolation is real and debilitating, and its impacts are long lasting.

This year’s Baby Loss Awareness Week theme was stepping stones—depicting the path that people must take after losing a baby and the various stages of that journey. The fact is that, for those of us who have to carry out the grotesquely unnatural act of burying a fully grown baby, the path of grief does not end. Grief stays with you for the rest of your life; you simply somehow find a way to live with it.

It really is time that we stopped hearing about serious failings in maternity care that lead to stillbirths. How many times have we had reports? How many times have we had reviews? How many times have we had investigations? What health trust or health board does not know in this day and age what is required to deliver babies safely and support mums through their pregnancy?

Sadly, we know that the latest failures found in East Kent will not be the last. I honestly despair, and I know that all those who have been through a stillbirth also continue to despair, each time we hear of yet more systematic failures. Of course staffing is an issue, but it is not the whole story. For those babies already gone, it is too late, but Governments across the UK must do more to do better; otherwise, more babies will be born asleep.

Oral Answers to Questions

Patricia Gibson Excerpts
Tuesday 14th June 2022

(2 years, 1 month ago)

Commons Chamber
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Sajid Javid Portrait Sajid Javid
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I accept that the vaccine has not worked in the intended way for every single person. I am afraid that this is a risk with any vaccine that has ever been approved in any major country. It is right, however, that when something goes wrong with a vaccination, it is looked at appropriately, and I am happy to discuss this further with my hon. Friend.

Patricia Gibson Portrait Patricia Gibson (North Ayrshire and Arran) (SNP)
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T7. On Friday, the cross-party Public Accounts Committee described the UK Government’s procurement of £4 billion of unusable PPE during the pandemic, which is now to be burned, as the result of a “haphazard purchasing strategy”. Who does the Secretary of State believe should be held responsible for this unacceptable squandering of taxpayers’ money through awarding multiple deals to friends and associates of Ministers or senior Tories, and the deadly mismanagement of the supply of PPE?

Sajid Javid Portrait Sajid Javid
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I hold the covid virus responsible.

Irish Diaspora in Britain

Patricia Gibson Excerpts
Thursday 17th March 2022

(2 years, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Patricia Gibson Portrait Patricia Gibson (North Ayrshire and Arran) (SNP)
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I begin by thanking and congratulating the hon. Member for Rochdale (Tony Lloyd) on bringing this debate forward, about which we had an interesting chat in the Tea Room. I am delighted to lead for the Scottish National Party on this debate on the Irish in Britain. I lead as a person born in Scotland of two Irish parents, although both now sadly deceased. I am proud of my Irish heritage and of the fact that I am first-generation Scottish.

Like others who have spoken in this debate, I was reflecting beforehand on the huge and often overlooked influence of the good people of Ireland on the UK. As Irish immigration echoes through the generations, there are a huge number of distinguished people who have Irish ancestry. It is really quite impressive when we think of people such as Daniel Day Lewis, A J Cronin, Matt Busby, Lorraine Kelly and Jim Kerr from the band Simple Minds. There are also people such as the late Sean Connery, Gerard Butler, Tom Conti, Susan Boyle and even Billy Connolly.

There is an impressive list of those who have found success in their respective fields in the UK who, like me, have two Irish parents, such as the singer Morrissey and the late Caroline Aherne, or those who have one Irish parent, such as Steve Coogan, Paul Merton, Julie Walters and Boy George. The list could go on and on. The UK would be a very different place without the contribution of so much Irish influence in a range of important fields. The depth and range of that talent is truly remarkable.

Irish emigration, especially to the UK, has been a feature of Ireland’s society for hundreds of years, so it is no surprise that the influence of the Irish diaspora is woven into the very fabric of life in every part of the UK, as well as further afield. We can see that influence has been hugely positive because of the lists of names that I and others have read out today. We can see it in the fields of singing and song writing, literature, cinema and even, dare I say it, politics.

Many Members of the House have spoken of their pride in their Irish roots. Ireland has suffered the loss of some of its brightest and best to emigration, a sad feature of Scottish society as well. However, emigration from Ireland has reduced. Increasingly we see Ireland becoming an attractive place for immigrants and its population has been growing for some years, albeit slowly.

My own parents came over from Malin Head in Donegal, which is the most northerly part of Ireland yet still in the south of the country, in the 1950s, like so many others in search of work and a better life in Glasgow. They settled in Govan, where I grew up. My father worked as a labourer while my mother devoted her life to raising her eight children, of whom I am the youngest. Sadly, in the 1950s the atmosphere and attitude the Irish encountered was not always as welcoming as it could have been, as the hon. Member for Bury North (James Daly) and others have pointed out. Thankfully, things have improved. But my mother applied for a council house in 1954, and it was not until 1982 that her patience was finally rewarded.

The poverty in which my parents lived and raised their family was scarring, as poverty so often is. Ultimately, it destroyed their health and led to their premature deaths. My father died when I was 15 months old and my mother died at the age of 54, 32 years ago. My parents could never have imagined that their daughter—the youngest of their eight children—would grow up to have the enormous privilege of securing a university education. They could never have envisaged that I would become an English teacher for 23 years and they could absolutely never have believed that I would be elected to serve the good people of North Ayrshire and Arran—in this, or indeed any other Parliament.

Like the hon. Member for Bristol South (Karin Smyth), I recall going to school with a St Patrick’s day medal and shamrock pinned to my school uniform—a ritual faithfully observed every year. But my story, like those of so many others in this House, is not unusual. Across much of the UK, those with Irish roots have sought to contribute and make their mark on the nations in which their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents settled—whether Scotland, England or anywhere else in the world. As my hon. Friend the Member for Angus (Dave Doogan) said, the strong bonds between Scotland and Ireland are well known. Scotland can look to Ireland—a small, independent country—for both example and inspiration.

This year, 2022, is significant for Ireland as it marks 100 years of an independent, self-governing free state of Ireland. There is no doubt that the first steps of Ireland as an independent nation brought their own challenges, but surely no one can doubt that the journey, despite its challenges, has been worth it. The value of the destination has undoubtedly made the challenges of that journey worth bearing. I say that because, since her independence, Ireland has grown into a confident, prosperous country—one of the richest in Europe. Independent of the UK, it has prospered. It has a real sense of national pride and has found its place on the world stage as a confident, outward-looking, liberal, democratic, modern, prosperous and internationally respected independent nation of a similar size to Scotland. I very much echo the sentiments of the right hon. Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott): prosperity and freedom are indeed linked. I look forward to her extending that sentiment to Scotland as well.

Those of us in Scotland who believe that Scotland, too, should become an independent nation see this modern island as a beacon—an example of the possibilities and potential that await Scotland when we take our future in our own hands. When Scotland does so, as I sincerely believe it will, we will, like Ireland, cultivate good relations with England, our near neighbour. We will cultivate that relationship as friends, allies and trading partners, I am sure.

Just as my Irish parents could never have imagined that their eighth child would go to university, become an English teacher and be elected to serve in Parliament, so too many would never have envisioned how far an independent Ireland has come in 100 years—how it has grown, prospered and earned the respect of its neighbours in the European Union and the wider international family of nations. Scotland can indeed learn much from Ireland’s economic and social journey to the nation that it has become.

I thank the hon. Member for Rochdale for securing the debate and I wish everyone in Ireland, all those with Irish parentage in this House and beyond, and all those with Irish roots a happy St Patrick’s day.

Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
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I call the shadow Minister without Portfolio, Conor McGinn.

Covid-19 Update

Patricia Gibson Excerpts
Thursday 13th January 2022

(2 years, 6 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Patricia Gibson Portrait Patricia Gibson (North Ayrshire and Arran) (SNP)
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In response to the news that all Tory MSPs and the leader of the Tories in Scotland have called for the Prime Minister’s resignation following his covid-rule-breaking party, the Tory Leader of the House resorted to personal attacks. Does the Secretary of State for Health think that attacks from members of his Government on those who criticise covid lockdown regulation violations is conducive to encouraging public compliance with covid restrictions—with all the implications that that has for the NHS and staff, who are already under enormous pressure?

If the Prime Minister cannot or will not follow his own rules, why does the Health Secretary think he can possibly continue to argue that the public should follow them? Is not the Prime Minister’s credibility on regulating and issuing public health instructions, as we continue to face covid restrictions, in tatters? The longer the Secretary of State supports the Prime Minister’s breach of these regulations, the longer his own credibility will suffer. Does he truly and sincerely think that the Prime Minister is the best person within his party’s ranks to lead the UK Government’s ongoing battle with covid?

Sajid Javid Portrait Sajid Javid
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The Prime Minister stood at the Dispatch Box yesterday and apologised; he set that out very clearly from this Dispatch Box. As he said, and as I think most people have accepted, it is right to wait for the completion of the investigation by Sue Gray.

Covid-19 Update

Patricia Gibson Excerpts
Monday 29th November 2021

(2 years, 7 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Sajid Javid Portrait Sajid Javid
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I do not think it would be correct to say that the Government have ignored the advice that the hon. Gentleman refers to. I also think it would be incorrect to say that when it comes to vaccines, the Government are somehow going to sit back and wait. I mentioned earlier the huge expansion of the vaccine programme, on the back of advice from the JCVI, and the fact that the UK already has the supply to meet it. The reason we have that is that we have a fantastic vaccine taskforce—better than in any other country in the world.

Patricia Gibson Portrait Patricia Gibson (North Ayrshire and Arran) (SNP)
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Most countries in Africa missed the World Health Organisation target for a mere 10% of their populations to be vaccinated by the end of last month as they struggled to secure supplies of vaccine. As the Secretary of State has heard today, no one is safe until everyone is safe. What more will his Government do, with international partners, to ramp up the sharing of vaccines with developing countries to lessen the risk of further variant emergence, and what support can be given to those countries to tackle the mistrust of the vaccine among some sections of their populations?

Sajid Javid Portrait Sajid Javid
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In the call that I had today with G7 members, we all agreed about the importance of working with developing countries, looking into not just how to provide the vaccine but also—I hope the hon. Lady agrees that this is important—what more can be done, once the country has the vaccine, to deliver it locally, through local logistics or through other delivery mechanisms. We will be working hard to see what more we can do together.