Friday, 14 January 2011

Safer Medicines Campaign

Patient safety group Safer Medicines Campaign today thanked Sheffield South East MP Clive Betts for signing Early Day Motion 475 “Safety of Medicines" to improve the safety testing of new drugs.

Although many medicines are essential and save many lives, their side effects hospitalise a million Britons and kill more than 10,000 every year, making them one of our leading causes of death.
Better methods to test the safety of new drugs could have a major impact. Current methods rely on animal tests, which often create a false sense of security, as with Avandia and Vioxx, which both caused many thousands of heart attacks, killing thousands, despite animal tests which indicated that they would protect the heart.
New safety tests, using state of the art techniques on human tissues and in ultra low dose studies in volunteers, promise to give results more predictive for humans. But these tests are not yet required by law.
Dr. Margaret Clotworthy, Science Director of Safer Medicines Campaign, said:
"It is time to compare these new tests with the animal tests currently required by the Government. Technologies to predict safety in humans have leapt ahead in the past ten years but our regulations are stuck in the past. These new technologies must be embraced to reduce the tragic toll of adverse drug reactions. We must congratulate Mr. Betts for taking a lead in modernising our outdated regulatory system."
Clive Betts said:
"We have made enormous progress in pharmaceutical testing and development, but we can do even better. If superior tests are available, the law should require them. I’m pleased to support the campaign to hasten the comparison called for in the Safety of Medicines Bill. This is a real opportunity to move safety testing into the twenty-first century."

Thursday, 13 January 2011


Clive Betts MP [Sheffield South East] today congratulated the secondary schools and colleges in his constituency on their GCSE and A level performance in 2010.

Clive Betts said:
“I am delighted to see the continuing improvement in the achievements of local schools. Children, parents and schools should be proud of their results, which have been achieved through all the hard work they have put in.”

Clive Betts then went on to castigate Michael Gove, the Conservative Secretary of State for Education for his proposals to introduce the English Baccalaureate as the key measure of secondary performance.

Clive Betts said:
“The results are the best ever and reflect the determination of the last Labour government to tackle the appalling education legacy of the last Conservative government.

Everyone needs to understand that the most important reason why Michael Gove announced new education targets yesterday was to divert attention from the massive improvement that has taken place in education achievement over the last decade.

Under the last Conservative government, more than 1300 secondary schools in England failed to achieve the 5 A-C GCSE target. In 2010, it was just 82.

I am fully supportive of setting even more ambitious targets, because I believe the potential is there. With the right attitude, commitment and determination of children, parents and teachers and the continued investment in teaching resources and buildings, we can maintain the momentum of continuous improvement.

All Michael Gove’s bluster will not disguise the fact he is cutting the budgets of the majority of schools next year and the year after and the year after that.”

Clive Betts continued:
“Michael Gove’s proposal to introduce the English Baccalaureate as the key measure of secondary performance is simply ridiculous.

It’s a return to a narrow, elitest model of education, simply designed to boost the perception of private, selective, independent schools at the expense of the majority.

It is simply out-of-touch with the economic, social and environmental challenges of the 21st century.

How ludicrous can you get to propose that a GCSE ‘C’ grade in Latin is to be exalted and defined as education excellence, whereas a GCSE ‘A*’ in IT is written off as an irrelevance and a sign of failure?”

Monday, 10 January 2011

It’s a question of balance

One of my colleagues has always said that the most difficult decision any councillor will face is where to site a bus-stop. Everyone wants one in their street, but no-one wants it outside their home.

Lots of decisions that both local and national politicians have to take are about balancing the interests and rights of different citizens. This is most obvious in planning. One person’s right to build an extension on their home has to be balanced against the neighbour’s entitlement to light and a view. The national economic interest and the north’s expectation of a high-speed rail service has to be balanced against the interests of the residents of the Chilterns, who will get no direct benefit from the rail service but will experience some detriment to their local environment.

What everyone does know is that, whatever decision is reached, you’re bound to get attacked by those who feel their interests have lost out.

Governments often have to legislate to set out clearly the issues that must be taken into account when balancing interests in particular issues. Before I was elected as a member of parliament, I had experience of two particular issues where I believed new legislation was required in order for action to be taken to protect the interests of local people and where the balancing interests had to be defined.

The first was about trees, specifically leylandii. Some people decided to plant leylandii trees on the boundaries of their gardens. This wasn’t a problem until the trees became 30 foot tall and completely blocked out the light to neighbouring homes. Those who planted them said “It’s my property and I can plant what I like and you can’t stop me.” And no-one could, until we introduced new legislation in the 2003 Anti-Social Behaviour Act to provide for action to be taken, where necessary, to balance the interests.

The second concerned empty homes. Sometimes – and, thankfully quite rarely - an owner would effectively abandon a house, but refuse to maintain it or sell the property so that someone else could do so. The result was a house where windows became boarded up, tiles and guttering fell off leading to water ingress to neighbouring properties, and rubbish would pile up in the garden. Neighbours became absolutely despairing and infuriated about councils’ inabilities to act. Sometimes they couldn’t even sell their own property because no-one wanted to buy with a tip next door and no prospect of resolution. This could go on for years.

Therefore, I was a big supporter of new legal powers – called the Enforced Sale Procedure – which enabled councils to act in situations like this. Obviously, it is in everyone’s interest to get the owner to act but, failing that, neighbours should be able to petition the local council to act. Then, the council – after taking all appropriate steps to get the owner to act – could apply for an Enforced Sale.

Last week, some of my constituents went public with their anger about the council’s failure to enforce the sale of a property in Waterthorpe which has now been empty for several years. I supported them. The property is overgrown, boarded up, rubbish is tipped and it’s become the focus for anti-social behaviour.
Then, this week, Eric Pickles – the Conservative Secretary of State – has announced that he is going to remove some of the powers and insist on a delay of two years before a council can even consider acting to deal with the problem. He says he’s doing this to protect the interests of property owners.

I think he’s simply failing to have a proper balance between the rights of property owners and the rights of all the neighbours who have to live with the consequences every day for years on end.