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Migrants are at risk of being left behind in the UK’s response to HIV


4 min read

If we are to end new cases of HIV by 2030, we need to reach every community with our HIV response – this includes those born abroad and living in London as well as the rest of the UK.

This year we mark 40 years since the first reported cases of what we now know was AIDS and the subsequent discovery of HIV.

Since then, we’ve made big progress in the fight against HIV in the UK. New cases have fallen by over a third in the last five years and diagnoses among gay and bisexual men have nearly halved. The extraordinary advances in HIV treatment now mean the majority of people living with HIV can now assume a normal life expectancy and, even more remarkably, those on effective treatment with an undetectable viral load can’t pass it on.

But this success isn’t shared equally by all groups; UK residents born outside the UK are at real risk of being left behind in the UK’s response to HIV.

As the MP for Vauxhall, a central London constituency with a large migrant population and one of the highest rates of HIV prevalence in the country, I’m urging the government to include migrants living in the UK as a key population in its HIV Action Plan to end transmissions by 2030. We must also build on this plan with our own coordinated approach in London, led by our Mayor Sadiq Khan.

Fears around being charged for NHS services and data sharing between the NHS and the Home Office mean many migrants delay accessing healthcare

A recent report by the UK’s HIV rights charity National AIDS Trust, HIV and migration, highlights the barriers faced in London by people who were born abroad, when accessing HIV testing, treatment and care. HIV is a public health inequality which disproportionately affects migrants. Indeed, the majority of HIV diagnoses in 2019 in the UK were among people born abroad.

We’ve seen with the Windrush Scandal how the hostile environment policies this government has implemented can harm migrants living in the UK. They deter people from accessing healthcare including HIV testing and treatment, which increases the likelihood of late diagnosis, poor health outcomes, and mortality. This is despite the fact that HIV treatment and testing is free for everyone regardless of their immigration status. Fears around being charged for NHS services and data sharing between the NHS and the Home Office mean many migrants delay accessing healthcare, resulting in complex healthcare needs in an already vulnerable population.

Hostile environment policies outside of healthcare also have an impact on the health and wellbeing of migrants living with or at risk of HIV. Many migrants subject to immigration control have No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF), which means they are unable to access the majority of welfare benefits. There’s no safety net for them if they lose their job, or if a pandemic like Covid-19 happens. The High Court has declared the Home Office’s NRPF policy to be unlawful and a breach of Human Rights Law which fails to safeguard and promote the welfare of children.

Some migrants also don’t have the right to work. Unable to earn money, some can’t afford food or travel to hospital appointments. These policies drive many into poverty, forcing them into destitution where they are less likely to be able to prioritise their health or HIV treatment. Not enough is known about the impact these policies have on the overall health of our nation, and the Health and Social Care Committee must investigate the impact of NRPF and lack of permission to work on individual and public health.

People born abroad aren’t being supported to test for HIV proactively. Awareness of the HIV prevention drug PrEP among migrants is far too low. The government has committed to end new cases of HIV by 2030. If we are to be successful, we need to reach every community with our HIV response – this includes those born abroad and living in London as well as the rest of the UK. 

 

Florence Eshalomi is the Labour MP for Vauxhall.

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A strong and resilient economy is crucial for net-zero Britain – and the private sector must be given the confidence to invest in green jobs


4 min read

The government needs to help clear up the confusion, as it is itself yet to define what it means by a green job

The Prime Minister’s welcome 10-point plan heralding a “green industrial revolution” identified the priority areas expected to play a major part in our path to net-zero – but how much thought has since been given to those in the engine room responsible for delivering successes and advances in these areas?

A thriving economy is contingent on the government giving industry the demand signals needed, and the development of “green jobs” is no exception. But what is a green job, and how can progress be measured?

This is the question we have been asking ourselves on the Environmental Audit Committee since November last year, when we launched an inquiry looking at the government’s plans for green jobs.

Some have defined a green job as being within areas of the economy producing goods and services for environmental protection purposes, and others as professions needed to secure a sustainable economy, such as health and care workers. Varying definitions are wide in scope – and arguably all jobs will eventually have to become green.

What is a green job, and how can progress be measured?

The government needs to help clear up the confusion, as it is itself yet to define what it means by a green job. This is despite several announcements on green jobs: 2m green jobs by 2030; £3bn to support 140,000 green jobs through the Treasury’s Plan for Jobs; an £80m Green Recovery Challenge Fund for nature recovery jobs.

Despite the best of intentions, there is a risk the green job tag might be applied to policy announcements without rigorous analysis of the employment opportunities and informed design of the underlying strategy. It will be important, for example, for green jobs in particular sectors to be announced alongside a thorough assessment of the skills and training likely to be required.

Prior to her move to international trade, former energy minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan told our committee that the government will set out its measurements in terms of green jobs progress in the upcoming net-zero strategy. This cannot come soon enough. As has been a regular refrain over the last 18 months, in successive inquiries, the government must give clarity to industry. To recruit people into green jobs, bosses need to be able to assess the expected demand for the skills required and the cost of training or upskilling.

Giving concrete demand signals to the private sector has led to overwhelming success: look at the contracts for difference scheme supporting the growth of offshore wind. Now we are – quite literally – an offshore wind powerhouse.

An added complexity to the green jobs conundrum is the fundamental challenge for environmental issues of securing co-ordination across government. Indeed, the green jobs issue spans six government departments.  Without a single body to co-ordinate delivery, how can the Cabinet Office, let alone parliamentary committees, effectively monitor how the policies are progressing and hold various departments to account?

We will shortly publish our report on green jobs, making clear recommendations as to how to overcome these hurdles. It is vital that we do so if we are to decarbonise our economy and succeed in delivering a workforce fit for net-zero Britain.

This parliamentary term is by far the most important for the environment. We have been promised countless strategies, delayed by the pandemic, but we are now on the eve of chairing COP26, a major climate meeting and the largest international conference ever hosted in the UK, when our environmental credentials will be on display to the world. The scale of admirable ministerial ambitions must be matched by the diligent preparation of practical policy design.

 

Philip Dunne is the Conservative MP for Ludlow and chair of the Environmental Audit Committee.

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IKEA continues to champion climate action by joining COP26 as a Partner


  • IKEA UK & Ireland is announced as a Partner for United Nations Climate Change Conference COP26 in Glasgow and will be furnishing some key areas within the COP26 venue
  • The partnership builds on IKEA’s long-standing commitment to take climate action, with Science-Based Targets that support its commitments to become climate positive by 2030* and reach net-zero emissions no later than 2050
  • The United Nations Climate Change Conference COP26 is a critical moment to inspire and enable everyone – in business, governments and beyond – to take ambitious climate action and deliver real change

IKEA is named as a Partner for the United Nations Climate Change Conference COP26. The conference, taking place between 31st October and 12th November, will be an important moment to turn the tide on climate change and is the last, best chance to get it right.

The IKEA vision is to create a better everyday for for the many people. Climate change threatens this, for people today and for generations to come. That’s why IKEA is committed to becoming climate positive by 2030 through reducing more greenhouse gas emissions than the IKEA value chain emits, while growing the IKEA business. IKEA is committed to the Paris Agreement and to contribute to limiting the global temperature rise to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

Collaboration can help create the large-scale systemic change that is needed to combat the climate crisis. IKEA is determined to be part of that change and COP26 presents a huge opportunity when it comes to addressing the need for partnership and collaboration across industry.

Peter Jelkeby, Country Retail Manager and Chief Sustainability Officer at IKEA UK & Ireland, said: “Climate change is one of the defining issues of our time and we’re determined to show that it’s good business to be a good business. At IKEA we want to show that healthy and sustainable living can be affordable, attractive and convenient for the many people.

Today, in the UK, our Buy back and Take back services, in-store circular hubs, and online platforms for second-hand products, are already supporting our customers to live more sustainable lifestyles, whilst helping to create the circular economy that we’ll need to transition to net-zero. We’re proud to be a Partner of COP26 and look forward to working closely and collaboratively with the UK Government and other partners to seize this opportunity for ambitious climate action now.”

COP26 President-Designate Alok Sharma said: “I am delighted to welcome IKEA to the COP26 family as a Partner for the UN climate conference taking place in Glasgow in November. They are showing climate leadership in their field by committing to science based targets including halving their emissions by 2030.

“By working with Glasgow City Council so the furniture from the summit can be used again, IKEA is helping to ensure there is a lasting local legacy from COP26. I look forward to working with IKEA and all our Partners ahead of the summit as we ensure a successful and inclusive COP26.”

Jesper Brodin, Ingka Group CEO, said: We are in the most important decade when it comes to climate change and even if there are challenges ahead, we are optimistic that by working together we can make COP26, UN Climate Change Conference, a success. With bold commitments and actions from companies, governments and society we have it in our hands to ensure a just transition to a net-zero future.”

In the lead up to COP26, Ingka Group, the largest IKEA retailer in 32 countries, is advocating for more ambitious climate action with key partners such as the We Mean Business coalition, the WEF Alliance of CEO climate leaders, and initiatives such as RE100 and EV100. In addition, as a founding member of the Race to Zero Breakthroughs Retail Campaign, Ingka Group wants to share the business case for climate action and help increase the number of global retailers with Science Based Targets (SBTs). With just 5% of global retailers having set SBTs, COP26 is a forum for enabling action and positive change.

As a Partner, IKEA UK & Ireland will be furnishing some key areas within the COP26 venue in Glasgow. After the conference, IKEA UK & Ireland will work closely with Glasgow City Council and the Cabinet Office to ensure the furniture is given a second life and donated to charitable organisations and/or local community projects.

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The Pig Industry Thinks The Cabinet Is Split Over Visas As Mass Cull Continues


5 min read

Grim evidence of the pig cull currently underway on UK farms to cope with labour shortages has been submitted to Priti Patel as Cabinet ministers appear to have been split on whether to grant more visas for abattoir workers.

A dossier of images, including photographs of overcrowded pig sheds, and information about piglets having to be killed by farmers has been handed to the Home Secretary, as well as the Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Environment Secretary George Eustice by the National Pig Association. 

The industry group say they need 5,000 visas for skilled meat processing workers and butchers to come from abroad to cope with shortages caused by Polish and Romanian workers returning home during the pandemic. Overall there are said to be 10,000 vacancies in the sector.

Rumours of a cabinet split over the situation come amid a number of statements made by ministers in recent days accusing industry of “whingeing” having had it “too easy” with cheap overseas labour, as the country has been hit with supply chain shortages at petrol stations and supermarkets.

The NPA said they had been asked by the government to show various departments what the impact of the labour shortage was having on the ground for the pig industry.

Without relaxing the rules on visas they have said more pigs will have to be killed as it is not cost effective for farmers and meat processors keep animals alive if there is no ability for them to be butchered for meat products. With animals not moving on to abattoirs there is also overcrowding on farms, with piglets and sows most likely to be killed first.

Charlie Dewhirst, policy adviser at the National Pig Association, said: “We don’t want to get into an ideological row, we are where we are. 

“Defra are very sympathetic but for the past 24 hours but I think there’s been a lack of empathy elsewhere. There’s elements of ideology verses logic in this. We’re just asking for a temporary solution. That’s within the Home Office brief and Defra don’t pull the levers, but the Home Office may view it as a slippery slope [on immigration] but they did offer a solution for the poultry sector.

“I’ve seen the pictures from farmers today, some of them are at the tipping point, they have run out of space to house pigs. Touch wood we don’t reach the stage of burning pires.”

The Home Secretary is understood to have doubled down on her stance against relaxing visa rules for the pig industry and the Prime Minister said reaching for the lever of “uncontrolled immigration” was not the answer. However, Environment Secretary Eustice is understood to have fought hard for the sector in recent weeks to get the labour force they need temporarily from overseas. 

Eustice has not called for visas publicly for the pig industry, and said on Monday he did not believe they were part of the solution to remedy labour shortages. Existing routes of the shortage occupation list and skills list should be able to fill vacancies, he said during party conference. 

However, it is understood behind the scenes that Eustice has been understanding and sympathetic about the plight of farmers and processors and wants to take a practical approach when labour shortages emerge. Despite being a Brexiteer, he is said to have a pragmatic attitude regarding overseas labour if it fills an immediate shortage and said today at conference that seasonal workers are likely to be needed every year. 

One government minister said a difference of opinion between him and the Home Office on relaxing immigration rules for specific sectors was known. 

A government source said that the solution to labour shortages for the pig industry could be met through the existing skilled shortage occupation list, and the industry should have made contingency plans for the shortage of butchers, which was a problem looming several months ago.

Suggestions that the skilled route requires a high level of English and is therefore putting people off from applying was also dismissed by the source. 

“They can come under the skilled worker route. They knew this was coming down the track six months ago and said what are we going to do and they need to focus on training up British people and for the jobs to be renumerated properly. The answer cannot be more immigration. 

“It’s being said everyone has to have a high level of English to come here, they don’t. They don’t need to be Shakespeare or have the ability to write a thesis on butchery. They need an equivalent of a G at GCSE.”

The National Pig Association said up to 150,000 pigs are under threat of being killed prematurely unless more staff arrive from overseas immediately.

They believe a decision on this from the Home Office may still be “in the balance” and were asked to sent information to the government departments and have sought a joint meeting with immigration minister Kevin Foster to the NFU. The NPA have said the impact on farmers who have to kill animals they have reared on their own land and without the facilities of an abbotoir can also be a difficult process for them to go through. 

Earlier this year Eustice and Alistair Jack, the Scotland Secretary, pushed for the government to increase the annual 30,000 quota for temporary work permmits on offer for foreign fruit and vegetable pickers, according to The Times. Both of the ministers briefs are at the sharp end of conversations around solving labour shortages and industry bodies make regular appeals to them for their support. 

Boris Johnson said earlier this week that businesses had been able to “mainline low cost migration for a long time” and his focus was on moving to a high wage economy. One minister told the Financial Times that businesses had had it too easy with “cheap foreign labour”.

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We need to deliver real substance on ‘levelling up’ or it will become a meaningless sound bite


[Alamy]

3 min read

In the midst of party conference season, the country is facing issues over the cost of living, with rising food and gas prices as a result of a shortage of HGV drivers, and increasing global demand, which is having a huge impact on families across Britain.

Prior to and during the pandemic, the answer to most issues of this nature was “levelling up” or building back better; but what does this actually mean? When you take away the soundbites and the speeches, we’re still asking questions as to what this will look like.

Heading to Manchester for my first in-person Conference since being elected in 2019, I believe we’re now at a crossroads. With real world implications facing millions, a sound bite and a catchy policy title is no longer sufficient. The promise of milk and honey down the road doesn’t help people now, so we face a choice of sticking on the current course where the destination is uncertain, or starting to put some meat on the bones of our polices to level-up and explain what the impact will be.

Levelling up on paper is a brilliant idea, allowing areas and regions of the UK that have been forgotten and left behind, – following the collapse of some industries – to catch-up. Putting investment into these areas without an algorithm that means yet more money going into London is an idea that resonates strongly in towns and cities from Manchester to Cornwall.

For my part, levelling up isn’t a shiny new building (although that’s still nice to have), it’s education, skills and training

But levelling up in one region differs drastically from another and can often have a wide variation even within the same region. Its greatest strength at the moment is also its greatest weakness, in that, because we’re still questioning what levelling up actually is, everyone has their own view on what it should be.

For my part, levelling up isn’t a shiny new building (although that’s still nice to have), it’s education, skills and training. It’s social mobility and improving opportunities and life chances for all by the end of this parliament. Whilst it may have been delayed due to the pandemic, this has to be our mission and if we can’t point to health inequalities narrowing, better qualifications, higher literacy rates and better jobs – then we haven’t levelled up at all.

Whilst levelling up means all things to all people, it unfortunately also means that it stands for nothing and if there is one thing that we should be taking away from Conference, it’s a clear idea of what this should achieve. The Levelling Up Fund will help but this is only part of the solution.

More emphasis on FE and the skills agenda is hugely welcome and a paradigm shift away from talking only about schools and universities. But we need to be looking at Level 2 qualifications just as much as we do Level 3 and higher, with a clear focus on what we’re going to do for the nine million people who can’t or struggle to read. And we need to focus on early years education – the building block for a child’s future success.  

When we can choose a policy, choose an idea, choose a sound bite, we really must now choose the impact we want to see, otherwise we risk these communities falling further behind. 

Christian Wakeford is Conservative MP for Bury South 

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UK set to face winter of discontent without urgent action to tackle supply chain crisis


4 min read

For businesses to be able to survive they are going to need to trade their way out of this perfect storm of challenges that now face them.

Time is running out to avoid a winter of discontent after years of Conservative complacency, to protect families and businesses from the energy prices crunch and manage the supply chain mayhem that is having a damaging ripple effect across the country. 

Having been warned repeatedly about the huge, looming shortage of HGV drivers, Ministers failed to act and we have been left with a fuel crisis, shortages on our shelves, and higher food costs. 

According to the latest ONS data, in September almost one in five businesses were either not able to get the materials, goods or services they needed from within the UK, or changed suppliers or found alternative solutions to do so.

For many businesses in the hospitality and retail sectors, the golden quarter between October and New Year’s Day is their most lucrative time, with some relying on this period for up to 40 per cent of their total yearly revenues. Now businesses are warning that with this period’s revenues set to be hit, that many businesses may not survive the winter; hitting jobs and livelihoods across the country.

The recruitment and retention crisis in the HGV sector can only be solved by driving up conditions

For these businesses, this year’s golden quarter has assumed even more importance, following extremely difficult trading conditions and reduced demand in Christmas 2020. This too came after the government was warned by SAGE in September that a circuit breaker was needed to control the virus, with a delay to act having greater social and economic consequences later.

We cannot afford for the same mistakes to be made again and again. That’s why over recent months Labour has called for action of sufficient scale to urgently address the HGV driver shortfall, including a taskforce to address the issues being faced including improving terms and conditions for drivers, and referring the issue of adding HGV drivers to the Shortage Occupation List to the Migration Advisory Committee to provide advice to government to help address the crisis in the short-term.

Yet rather than being able to focus on how to maximise their trading, the government’s self-inflicted supply chain crisis – which is markedly worse than other countries are seeing – is forcing businesses contending with shortages in critical areas to work out how to survive, let alone thrive.

There has been a recruitment and retention crisis in the HGV sector for years, with apprenticeship starts down 49 per cent since 2015. This can only be solved by driving up conditions in the sector, increasing the attractiveness of the profession including for young people and women, encouraging those who have left the profession to re-join and helping to set up apprenticeships.

The recent U-turn that the government has made in saying in principle they would approve 5,000 visas for drivers is an acknowledgement of the crisis that they have created, but this is neither a long-term answer nor a credible short-term response. They are being far too slow to act and have still done nothing to actually approve these visas, and both the British Retail Consortium and the British Chamber of Commerce have warned that this number will be insufficient to solve disruption this winter.

Many of our hospitality and retail businesses are relying on a successful final quarter to rebuild their battered balance sheets and begin to pay off some of the debts that they have accrued over the last 18 months as now rent payments become due, furlough is withdrawn, and costs of materials and energy rise. 

The survival of many quite literally depends on a successful end to 2021. Recent ONS figures on business deaths have shown that there have been over 100,000 in the first two quarters of 2021. The number of closures in Quarter 2 2021 is the highest second quarter figure since the start of the series in 2017.

For businesses to be able to cope they are going to need to trade their way out of this perfect storm of challenges that now face them. A failure to plan for the needs of sectors across the economy, and to heed the warnings from business about how we needed to prepare for our recovery is now hitting industry and jobs at a time when restrictions are being lifted and support is being withdrawn. For the government’s willful intransigence and appalling complacency to now be resulting in barriers to trade is unforgiveable. 

 

Seema Malhotra is the Labour MP for Feltham and Heston.

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Driving uptake of breast cancer screening to saving lives


Credit: Alamy

With the right approach we can encourage more women to attend breast cancer screening appointments and save lives in the process.

It is widely recognised that early diagnosis is fundamental to reducing deaths from breast cancer.[1] However, at present, too many women are choosing not to take up screening appointments when invited to attend.[2]

To understand the factors preventing them from attending Hologic undertook a survey of 2000 women across the UK aged between 45 and 74).[3] The results highlighted some key areas of consideration for those working within the health service and offered insights that, if acted upon, could increase breast screening attendance and save lives.

Breast screening: understanding and misconceptions

Results from the survey found that 96%[3] of those questioned understood mammograms are an essential check for women.

Yet despite this, 21% of women did not plan to attend their breast screening appointment in the following months, if invited to attend. While 45% of women cited fears around COVID-19 as a key driver in non-attendance, we also found that 13% of women thought mammography is painful, while a further 10% did not believe it detects cancer accurately. These findings are concerning and highlight why it is so vital to tackle misconceptions if we are to turn the tide on breast cancer through earlier diagnosis.

How to drive better uptake of breast cancer screening

This starts with better education.

While most women understand the importance of breast screening, this is not translating to high enough attendance. However, there are steps that can help break through the misunderstandings and misinformation.

As ever, public education campaigns that emphasise the importance, effectiveness and ease of breast cancer screening are vital to boosting attendance. The more that women see their peers from their own communities attending appointments and benefitting from early diagnosis, the more likely they are to attend their own screenings.

We must also ensure that our screening programmes have access to the best and most innovative technology, to make the process of screening as simple, efficient and convenient as possible. In particular, if women are reluctant to attend screening, making technology available to reduce recalls and help avoid unnecessary appointments could help to improve the overall patient experience. Tomosynthesis, often called 3D Mammography ™, detects up to 65% more invasive breast cancers and reduces recalls of patients by up to 40% when compared to traditional 2D mammography.[4][5]

Knowing the risks

While a family history of breast cancer is widely understood to be a risk factor in developing the disease, just 20% of women knew that having dense breast tissue is also a key factor, despite it being a greater risk than having two immediate relations who have had breast cancer.[6] Furthermore, only 36% of women considered age a risk, even though the number one risk factor for breast cancer is being aged 65 or over.[7]

In short, countless people are in the dark when it comes to their personal risk of developing the disease. That is why the healthcare sector needs to act now to improve awareness of risk factors to improve attendance at mammograms.

According to the charity Breast Cancer Now, over 700,000 people in the UK of breast screening age are at higher-than-average risk of developing breast cancer due to having a high breast density.[8] It is therefore shocking that 86%[3] of women have never had a formal cancer risk assessment to identify this.

More personalised care is essential to addressing some of the key challenges in breast screening.  Offering risk stratification through the adoption of quantifiable breast density assessment would allow women with higher risk factors to be accurately identified and prioritised for screening. This would allow the screening interval for lower risk women to be extended, creating a more efficient and targeted breast screening programme.

As services continue to operate amidst the fallout of the pandemic, it is absolutely vital that as many women as possible feel comfortable attending a breast cancer screening appointment. Technology can go a long way to helping streamline the process and critically to improving patient experience. However, it must be supported by robust public education and a smart approach to service prioritisation; one that stratifies risk and unlocks screening for the women that need it most.


[4] Friedewald SM, Rafferty EA, Rose SL, et al. Breast cancer screening using tomosynthesis in combination with digital mammography. JAMA. 2014 Jun 25;311(24):2499-507.

[5] Rafferty E, Park J, Philpotts L, et al., Assessing Radiologist Performance Using Combined Digital Mammography and Breast Tomosynthesis Compared with Digital Mammography alone: Results of a Multicenter, Multireader trial. Radiology, 2013 Jan; 266(1):104-13. Epub 2012 Nov 20.

[6] Engmann NJ, Golmakani MK, Miglioretti, DL, et al. Population-Attributable Risk Proportion of Clinical Risk Factors for Breast Cancer. JAMA Oncol. 2017

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Reversing biodiversity decline will require decisive action across our society


A survey on behalf of WSP and BrightBlue shows the vast majority of people value the mental wellbeing and improved physical wellbeing benefits of nature

Amid the urgency of action to tackle climate change, the issue of biodiversity collapse can easily get lost. In the UK and most countries across the world, biodiversity is declining at an alarming rate, yet understanding of the correlation between climate change and biodiversity loss is lacking.

We must see the climate and biodiversity crises as equally important and interconnected issues; indeed, nature actually has a vital role to play in the fight against climate change, from nature-based solutions which absorb carbon, to our natural capital being understood and appreciated as an economic asset, as stated in the landmark Dasgupta Review.

Alongside helping to tackle climate change, the natural environment provides numerous benefits which are all too often taken for granted. These include improved mental wellbeing, healthier lifestyles and cleaner air, some of which have been more important than ever during the COVID pandemic.

A survey as part of new research from WSP and thinktank Bright Blue, entitled ‘Nature Positive?’, showed the vast majority of people valued the mental wellbeing and improved physical wellbeing benefits of nature, and there was strong support for existing domestic Government policies to protect and enhance the natural environment.

Though, when asked about where responsibility lay for the UK’s natural environment, there was a disconnect. Despite expected responsibility for government being high, only a third (32%) of those surveyed believed that local authorities were doing enough to protect and enhance the natural environment in the UK. This fell to just over a quarter (28%) for central Government.

The question of who is responsible for nature in the UK is not easily answered. It is surely the responsibility of us all: government, businesses and individuals, we can all play a role, though government and business have great opportunity to effect real change.

Our research shows that the public recognise that there is a clear role for government and they believe more needs to be done, making the existing cross-party support for addressing climate change and biodiversity most welcome.

The Environment Bill is certainly ambitious and the over 100 initial amendments to the Bill from the Lords shows even more appetite to protect nature. However, key commitments from the Government such as the 2030 target to reverse species decline do not spare us much time to drive this forward. Indeed, the welcome addition of Biodiversity Net Gain for Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects will not be mandatory until nearly 2024, giving us only six years until the 2030 target.

Our research showed that people believe businesses have a low expected and low actual responsibility to protect and enhance nature. This was a surprising outcome as be it through corporate policies or the land business own and manage, organisations across a diverse range of sectors have significant impact on biodiversity but also real power to deliver positive benefits for the natural environment. Importantly, they have the opportunity to involve their employees and local communities in that process.

Government at all levels must ensure that all businesses report and disclose their impact on biodiversity in line with the draft targets for the Convention on Biological Diversity, due to be finalised early next year. This ambition will be supported by the Taskforce on Financial Disclosure for Nature and the UK Government has an opportunity to lead by ensuring all large businesses start reporting on their impacts and dependencies on nature.

This will make our businesses more transparent, increase their resilience to market shocks and change, and result in benefits for people and wildlife.

Of course, individuals and communities across the country also have a vital role to play in supporting a positive future for our natural environment, and I firmly believe it is the responsibility of both government and businesses to work with communities to make sure that the benefits we receive from nature are available to everyone, and not just those who can afford it.

All elements of our society have a role to play in reversing biodiversity decline in the UK and internationally, and to work with nature to help tackle climate change – not see them as two different issues. It is only through coordinated and swift action that we will be able to make a real difference and restore the habitats and ecosystems we are all ultimately reliant upon.

Join WSP and Bright Blue at 8am on Monday 4 October during the Conservative Party Conference for a panel discussion on public attitudes towards nature and biodiversity in the UK.

Tom Butterworth is UK Deputy Head of Ecology at WSP, the world’s largest environmental consultancy

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Tory Faithful Gush Over Rishi Sunak’s Ode To “Fiscal Responsibility”


Rishi Sunak delivered his speech to Conservative party conference in Manchester today and focused on fiscal discipline (Alamy)

4 min read

“What’s not to like about Rishi Sunak? He’s great,” one Conservative activist enthusiastically said as they left the Chancellor’s first in-person speech at party conference.

It was a recurring theme among the Tory faithful as they praised the man in Number 11 for an address to members that was light on policy but strong on fiscal discipline and responsibility for the nation’s economy.

A number of those in attendance told PoliticsHome they approved of his commitment to returning them to the party of low taxation amid unease over a raft of recent spending and a planned hike in National Insurance to pay for a new social care plan.

“I think there’s a lot of concern around the party that we’re losing that tag of being the party of low taxation,” one member said.

“We’re already on message now as the party of ‘lower taxation’, rather than absolutely low taxation, and there’s some concern about that.”

But he said he was pleased Sunak had “set his stall out that he is the Chancellor that’s going to not allow spending or the debt to get out of control”.

Early on in his speech to a packed auditorium in Manchester this lunchtime, with people queuing down the conference centre trying to get in, the Cabinet minister clearly set out his stall on a restrained approach to spending.

“Pragmatism, fiscal responsibility, a belief in work, and an unshakeable optimism about the future,” Sunak said. 

“This is who I am. This is what I stand for. This is what it will take. And we will do whatever it takes.”

Sunak praised his predecessors in the Treasury for “their 10 years of sound Conservative management of our economy” and sought to justify recent controversial tax rises.

“They believed in fiscal responsibility, I believe in fiscal responsibility, and everyone in this hall does too,” he continued. 

“And whilst I know tax rises are unpopular, some will even say un-Conservative. I’ll tell you what IS un-Conservative:  Unfunded pledges, reckless borrowing, and soaring debt.”

A member of the Young Conservatives was also full of praised for Sunak. “He was excellent,” they gushed. “He’s incredibly eloquent and very passionate and clearly believes in what he’s what he says he’s doing.

“It was a strong conservative rhetoric, he wants to show he will get the job done right in his way, in the traditional Tory way.”

Another party member enjoyed the speech and although it was “light on the initiatives”, it was positive and encouraging.

Members also seemed sympathetic to the National Insurance rise and potential for other taxes to go up to pay for the pandemic spending, a distinctly un-Tory move. 

“I think we all recognise the situation the country’s in now, so we need to deal with the current situation,” one activist told PoliticsHome.

“But yes, I think it’s also really important for the Conservatives – who have a reputation for being the party of low taxes – that going forward in the future we do return to that environment, but we do need to get the situation fixed first.”

They added: “But I said to my friend who I sat next to at the end, you know, what’s not to like about Rishi Sunak? He’s great.”

Sunak has also won praise from his own MPs, the former health minister Stephen Hammond telling a PoliticsHome fringe event this morning he believed he was the “most impressive Chancellor we’ve had for 25 years”.

Criticising some Cabinet ministers for being “fiscally incontinent” whose every answer is “to spend”, Hammond said has not comfortable with that as a “good Conservative”.

He said Sunak’s emotional intelligence is “extraordinary”. MP Saqib Bhatti, who was also on the panel, agreed with Hammond’s assessment. 

“He’s, very aware of the context of things. Rishi will try and get us back to reducing taxes as soon as he possibly can,” Bhatti said.

Last night at a drinks reception hosted by the backbench 1922 committee, Sunak delivered a speech in which the biggest cheer was when he told colleagues: “For the record, I’m also a low-tax Conservative.”

But Sunak has stopped short of explicitly ruling out further tax rises. “There can be no prosperous future unless it is built on the foundation of strong public finances,” he said in his Conference address. 

“I have to be blunt with you, our recovery comes with a cost. Our national debt is almost 100% of GDP.

“So we need to fix our public finances, because strong public finances don’t happen by accident.

“Yes, I want tax cuts, but in order to do that our public finances must be put back on a sustainable footing.”

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rise in national insurance to fund the NHS and social care was the easy bit – now comes the graft


4 min read

My job as Health Select Committee chair is to hold the government to account, and I haven’t shied away from doing that during the pandemic. But that means also giving credit where it’s due.

NHS leaders, clinicians and the select committee have been warning about the precarious state of the NHS and care systems post-pandemic, and ministers have really listened. A Conservative government raising national insurance to invest in the NHS is a bold one-nation move that will be rewarded by voters, who testify time and again that nothing matters more to them than healthcare. 

So it’s deeply disheartening to see opposition politicians who complain about NHS and social care underfunding week in and week out vote against giving the NHS an extra £12bn each year. This is politicking of the worst kind because the crisis in the NHS and care system is real, and the hard fact is that any wealth tax will not raise the kind of sums needed to care for an ageing population. If other parties can’t point specifically to how they would raise £12bn a year from April, then they can’t look their constituents facing long waits for operations in the eye and tell them they have a plan to help.

Even before the pandemic, there were structural reasons why we needed a proper conversation with the electorate about health funding. Last year was the first in human history where there were more over 65s than under 18s. In the UK, the number of people aged 65 and over is growing three times faster than the number aged under 65. 

It is a wonderful miracle that we are living longer, but one with dramatic consequences for NHS and care spending. A 50-year-old man costs the NHS just under £500 on average – but by the time he is 85 it rises to nearly £4,000. Our hospitals will be 40 per cent busier in 15-years-time according to one study. 

It was, as Sir Humphrey would say, “brave” for a Conservative Prime Minister to raise taxes but the next task of turning money into shorter waits, with proper reform, will be tougher still. As the cost of living increases on every side, voters will be angry if they don’t see tangible improvements fast in exchange for that rise in national insurance. 

It could well be that getting the national insurance increase through Parliament was the easy bit

I know some simply see the NHS as a bottomless pit and fear the money will disappear without touching the sides. They are right to be concerned. As someone who has made their fair share of mistakes while stewarding the NHS, I believe we need urgent reform in several crucial areas to avoid that fate.

There is a real and rapidly deteriorating workforce crisis in the NHS. Our eye-watering waiting lists, lack of face-to-face GP appointments and even multiple lockdowns to protect NHS capacity stem partly from this pressing issue. 

You can give the NHS £8bn extra for the next three years but without £8bn of extra doctors and nurses to do the work, nothing will change. The Health Foundation estimates it will take 4,000 more doctors and 18,000 more nurses to clear the backlog, but so far there is no plan to find them.

Long term there is only one solution, so far rejected by the government, to allow an independent body to make workforce forecasts, OBR-style, so we can make sure we are training enough doctors and nurses for the future.

It could well be that getting the national insurance increase through Parliament was the easy bit for ministers. Much now hangs on their ability to avoid the traps set out above. But they have taken a courageous first step in raising the money and they should be applauded for that. This is not, in the end, about big state versus small state politics, but whether we back the people’s number one priority: healthcare. 

Jeremy Hunt is Conservative MP for South West Surrey and chair of the Health and Social Care Select Committee

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