Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Theresa May's first PMQs 2) - the vew from Copeland

For those of us in West Cumbria one interesting moment during Theresa May's first Prime Minister's Question time came with a question from the Labour MP for Copeland, Jamie Reed.

Anyone who reads this blog regularly will probably have worked out that I am not exactly Jamie Reed's greatest fan, and I usually avoid writing about him on the principle that if you have nothing good to say about someone it is best to say nothing. However, this week we have had the vote on the replacement submarines for Britain's nuclear deterrent, an issue that transcends party, and indeed Theresa May congratulated the 140 Labour MPs who voted for those replacement submarines (of whom Jamie was one) for putting country before party.

Mr Reed was called to ask a question and began by congratulating Theresa May on becoming Prime Minister: he also commended what she had done in making clear that those who suffer from diabetes (the MP for Copeland and the new PM both have the Type One form of this condition) should not be prevented from aspiring to or from holding even the most challenging of roles.

He then responded to the PMs words about the Trident renewal, thanking Mrs May for supporting the official Labour party position in support of the renewal of Britain's nuclear deterrent and adding what a pleasant change it was to hear that position supported from the despatch box.

(This was actually a dig at his own party leader: Jeremy Corbyn is opposed to Britain's independent nuclear deterrent, but he has not yet succeeded in reversing the pro-Trident position inherited from his predecessor.)

I did find it a little bit inconsistent that Jamie Reed managed almost in consecutive breaths to make the above comment which perfectly illustrated the chasm within the Labour party, and to accuse the Conservatives of being divided, but that, I suppose, is politics for you.

His final point was to refer to West Cumberland Hospital and the promises made by David Cameron to protect services at WCH. He then invited Theresa May to visit the constituency to see WCH and to reconfirm those promises.

For the avoidance of doubt, it is my opinion that David Cameron's promises about West Cumberland Hospital have so far been kept in that the government did indeed make millions available for the rebuild and refurbishment of the hospital and has given the local NHS clear instructions to retain district general hospital services in West Cumbria. However, I believe that it is important for all residents of West Cumbria that we work together on a cross-party basis to maintain support for WCH ands keep up pressure on the government, whatever party forms that government, to do so.

Theresa May noted that this was the first of what will probably be many invitations to her by MPs to visit their constituencies. She reiterated the government's support for the NHS

It may be worth adding her full reply which was as follows:

Theresa May The Prime Minister 
                                          
"The hon. Gentleman refers to divisions on the Conservative Benches. I have to say: which party was it that took three weeks to decide who its unity candidate should be? It is the Labour party that is divided.
 
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his remarks on type 1 diabetes. There are many youngsters out there, from tiny tots to teenagers, living with type 1 diabetes. It is important that we send a message to them that their future is not limited: they can do whatever they want.
 
The hon. Gentleman is the first hon. Member at Prime Minister’s questions to invite me to his constituency. I will, of course, look very closely at all invitations I receive. It is important that decisions about the construct of local NHS services are taken at a local level by the NHS. He made a point about the agreement in the official policy of the Conservative party and the Labour party on Trident. I simply remind him that where we did disagree at the election was that the Conservative party agreed to put in the money that was necessary for the NHS. The Labour party refused to commit to that."

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