On Wednesday, I attended a briefing at the Department for International Trade on export opportunities for British businesses and the role played by the ‘GREAT Britain’ campaign. The campaign is the Government’s most ambitious international marketing campaign ever, showcasing the very best of our whole nation to encourage the world to visit, study and do business with the UK.
The UK Export Strategy supports and connects businesses to grow on the world stage and aims to increase total UK exports as a proportion of GDP from 30 percent to 35 percent. It sets out how the Government will support businesses of all sizes to make the most of the opportunities presented by markets around the world. Exports by British companies rose by £16.5 billion in 2018, as we are leading the way in creating jobs, growing our economy and ensuring prosperity across the country. In 2018, exports totalled £634.1 billion – a rise from £617.5 billion in the 2017. Exports to non-EU countries rose by £6.5 billion last year and have risen by £116.5 billion since 2010. This is fantastic news for UK plc.
This week, the Public Accounts Committee held a session on NHS waiting times for elective and cancer care. I was one of the lead members, questioning the witnesses who included, Simon Stevens and Professor Steve Powis from NHS England, Sir Chris Wormald, Permanent Secretary at the Department of Health & Social Care and Ian Dalton from NHS Improvement.
A recent National Audit Office report found that while the NHS has increased the number of people it treats each year, the percentage of patients treated within waiting time standards continues to decline for both elective and cancer treatment. The 92 percent target for elective care was last met nationally in February 2016 and the 85 percent target for cancer treatment has not been met since the end of 2013. I questioned the panel as to why targets aren’t being met, when this will be resolved and whether adequate resources are being made available.
On Thursday, in my capacity as Chair of the APPG on Access to Medicines & Medical Devices, I met with Professor Lord Darzi of Denham, both a world-leading surgeon and former Health Minister. It was an incredibly productive meeting, during which we discussed a range of issues across the healthcare and life sciences sector.
On Friday, I visited Denbury Primary School and met with the Headteacher, Jamie Stone. We discussed a number of issues including school funding and the increasing teacher pension contribution costs. Since being elected in 2010, I have voiced concerns about the inherent unfairness of education funding across England and the impact that this has had on areas such as ours in Devon. Schools are expected to do increasingly more with less money. Devon remains in the bottom 40 local authorities when it comes to education funding with pupils receiving £290 less per pupil against the national average. This is not good for the future of our children and I am fighting hard for change.
I’m pleased to say that the Schools Minister, Nick Gibb MP, recently accepted my invitation to meet with myself and headteachers in the constituency to discuss concerns around school funding and other issues. This meeting will be an opportunity to show the Minister the fantastic work our headteachers and their staff are doing on a daily basis, despite rising financial pressures.
Earlier in the week, a Backbench Business debate took place on the subject of school funding. Whilst I was unable to attend due to commitments elsewhere, it was encouraging to see so many Members take part in the debate. This is very much a cross-party issue that is impacting schools up and down the country and needs addressing urgently.
My next surgery is on Friday 10th May from 2.30pm in Newton Abbot. Please call my office on 01626 368277 to arrange an appointment.