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Justin Madders MP - Blog - December 2016

Published: 15th December 2016 09:38

Justin Madders, MP for Ellesmere Port and Neston, talks about his work on the Bill Committee and discusses social mobility matters.

Justin Madders MPJustin Madders MP

When I am out and about in the constituency, people often comment that they have seen me speak in Parliament on the BBC Parliament channel.

Parliament was first televised in 1989 and now, along with the many social media outlets available and websites such as "They Work For You", there are a number of ways to keep track of what your MP is doing. That said, an awful lot of Parliament's work does not get broadcast in the same way. For the last few weeks I have been involved in what is known as a Bill Committee, the purpose of which, as the name suggests, is to look at Government Bills.

A Bill Committee is a little like a mini Parliament. Around 15-20 MPs will meet in a Committee room and go through Government Bills line by line. The opportunity is there to vote against particular clauses in a Bill and put forward amendments of your own. Each clause and amendment can have a debate on it although, because there is an in-built Government majority on the Committee, it is very rare for any amendment put forward by opposition MPs to be accepted. What does happen on occasion though is that suggestions made by opposition MPs that the Government like will magically re-appear as Government amendments later on in the process!

The Bill Committee I have been involved in is to do with changes to a reimbursement scheme to the NHS from the sale of medicines used for patients. The Bill follows some well publicised examples of pharmaceutical companies taking advantage of the market to put up prices by 1000% of certain drugs that they are the only manufacturers of. This is nothing short of profiteering and so the Government needed to take action to protect both patients and the taxpayer.

The Bill creates in law a mechanism that allows for sales of drugs over a certain value to generate a rebate to be given back to the Government, with the hope that this will dissuade some of the abuses we have seen. Given these abuses, we as the official opposition decided not to oppose the legislation outright but wanted to make sure that the proceeds from the rebate were used to improve access to new medicines and treatments for patients. There have been many examples recently of the NHS delaying or preventing altogether access to new drugs, usually on the grounds of cost, but the Government were not keen to support this amendment. It did give us an opportunity though to highlight some of many examples, particularly with new and rarer treatments which patients struggle to get.

Social mobility

I recently attended the launch of the Social Mobility Commission's annual state of the nation report which was presented by the former Labour cabinet minister Alan Milburn. What I heard there amounted to a damning indictment of the status quo. It was very clear that Britain has a huge social mobility problem. Put simply, previous generations could normally expect that if their children worked hard at school they could expect to do better than their parents. That is now longer true; people born in the 60's,70's and 80's now have lower incomes than their parents did at the same age.

The report identifies that thousands of children go to school not ready for it and that the gap in performance between them and their peers often widens rather than narrows through school. Once in work too many people are unable to move up the career ladder in the way their parents may have. Those wanting to enter the professions find their way blocked because the focus on internships and unpaid work experience means that those who can afford to work for free get their foot in the door at an early stage, which is why only 4% of doctors and 6% of barristers have working class origins. Home ownership has fallen with those able to afford to get on the housing ladder often only able to do so because of inherited wealth.

There is a huge geographical disparity as well; the best jobs and therefore the best opportunities are disproportionately to be found in London and the South East. For too long we have allowed privilege and connections to override ability and potential and been too willing to accept that economic growth in the country translates into increased prosperity and opportunity for everyone across the nation.

The report smashes that myth and makes it clear that where you are from or who your parents are is the biggest factor in determining how you get on in life. It shouldn't be like that; every child should have the same chance to make the most of their talents and in a world where opportunities will become ever more restricted through globalisation it is incumbent on people like me to demand the Government do more.

Justin Madders MP
Ellesmere Port & Neston
Shadow Health Minister


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