Events information will appear below.

Religious Education and the BBC

TITLE: Fiona Bruce MP Hosts Event in Parliament on Religious Education in the classroom and religious content on the BBC

Fiona Bruce MP, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Religious Education, recently hosted an event in Parliament on the relevance of faith-focused Religious Education and the BBC’s coverage of religious material. Speakers considered how the study of different religious faiths can be used to inform national life and improve community cohesion. Speakers also considered the role that broadcasting agencies, like the BBC, can play in improving religious literacy across the nation, and reducing local community tensions. 

Fiona received a room of over fifty guests, including Parliamentarians and representatives from a range of religious and non-religious groups. Keynote speakers included Jonathan Arkush, President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews – representing the UK’s Jewish community - who spoke powerfully about the role that religious education can play in improving social cohesion. Steve Clifford, General Director of Evangelical Alliance – the voice for evangelical Christians in the UK – also gave a moving address about the ongoing relevance of the Christian faith within an increasingly secular society. Examples he gave included faith-inspired social action, such as prison visiting, youth work, job clubs and Street Pastors.
Providing a fresh perspective on the issue, Mark Friend - BBC controller leader of the BBC’s recent Religion and Ethics Review - discussed the role that the nation-wide broadcaster can play, both in presenting religious groups positively and accurately in their programmes and in improving the public’s religious literacy, and spoke of how carefully the BBC consider comments from members of the public – which was encouraging as a sparky question time followed his presentation!
Fiona Bruce MP said:
“When living in a society which prides itself on its cultural and religious diversity – a society in which over half the population hold a faith, according to the most recent census, - understanding the different religious beliefs which shape and motivate us and those in our communities is of utmost importance. This promotes community cohesion and reduces misunderstandings, which in a worst case scenario, can lead to damaging community friction and even disturbances. Religious Education both in and out of the classroom is, for this reason, invaluable and ought to be maintained. Events, such as this one, highlighting good practice in RE, play an integral role in ensuring that this goal is achieved.
It was particularly interesting to hear how the BBC is addressing contemporary challenges as they try to meet the needs and demands of a diverse and complex UK – and indeed international – audience, who hold so many disparate views. The BBC’s work, when well done, should help us all understand the important role that faith plays for many people in their everyday lives, the beliefs that define us and the certainties that guide people in today’s uncertain times.”

Alcohol Treatment

TITLE: Fiona Bruce MP Chairs a seminar on ‘tackling the crisis in alcohol treatment’.

The All Party Parliamentary Group for Alcohol Harm, of which Fiona Bruce is Chair, hosted a seminar in the House of Commons to discuss the acute challenges now facing alcohol treatment services. Treatment providers, researchers and charities were represented by panel of leading experts who discussed the nuances of the challenges faced by treatment services to support individuals, their families and wider community.

Fiona Bruce MP:

I welcome the recent announcement that £6 million is to be committed to supporting the 200,000 children in the UK who live in a family with a dependent drinker. However, without effective wider treatment services, including engaging the whole family where there is a dependent drinker, it will not be possible to achieve the goals of this policy. This meeting set out to discuss workable policy solutions and look at best practice examples across the country to provide the best service provision which will give more help and support to dependent drinkers who want to give up drinking or drink responsibly.

Alcohol problems feed into homelessness, mental health, cancer, pressure on A&E wards, antisocial behaviour and domestic violence. Therefore, it is really important to ensure that every local area has support services which effectively address alcohol problems and this is much more important than realised, especially among older people – the charity Drinkaware claim that 10 million people are drinking above the Chief Medical Officers’ safe drinking guidelines.”

The panel included:
        Dr Emily Finch, Consultant addiction psychiatrist and member of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs.
        Mike Ward, Senior Consultant at Alcohol Concern and Alcohol Research UK
        Paul Hayes, Chair of Collective Voice – a group of treatment providers, working effectively to represent the voices of the drug and alcohol treatment sector and of services users.
        Professor Colin Drummond, Professor of addiction psychiatry at Kings College London and Chair of the Public Health England Alcohol Leadership Board.
        Vivienne Evans OBE, CEO of Adfam and Oliver Standing, Director of Policy and Communications at Adfam. Adfam is the national charity working to improve life for families affected by drugs and alcohol.


High Flying Apprentices

Fiona Bruce welcomes local apprentice, Alexander Benez, to House of Commons.
An apprentice from Congleton was joined by Fiona in the House of Commons to celebrate the 12,000 apprenticeships provided by the UK’s Aerospace, Defence, Security and Space industries.
There were over 100 apprentices from some of Britain’s leading aerospace, defence, security and space companies who attended the ADS Parliamentary Reception.
Organised by the trade organisation ADS Group, and sponsored by United Technologies Aerospace Systems, the event recognised the valuable contribution apprentices make to our important, high-skill manufacturing industries, and highlighted the world-leading technologies that many of the apprentices are working to develop.
Fiona Bruce said:
“I was delighted to welcome Alexander Benez, a second-year Senior Aerospace Bird Bellows Apprentice from Congleton, to the House of Commons and to hear from him about how rewarding he is finding his role. The reception was an excellent opportunity to meet young people working towards highly-skilled and rewarding careers and to celebrate the huge talent working in these world-leading sectors. Young apprentices, like Alexander, are great ambassadors for our local area and the UK’s advanced manufacturing industries.”
Alex said:
“The ADS reception was a great opportunity to exchange experience and build my network with others in the aerospace industry. I was also pleased to meet Fiona Bruce and discuss my experience of working in the aerospace industry and the contribution Bird Bellows makes to the local economy. Fiona clearly appreciates the work of apprentices in our local area and the important role that apprenticeships play in preparing the future leaders of our industries. Currently on rotation, I look forward to gaining experience of all corners of the company before deciding where to specialise.” 

Paul Everitt, Chief Executive of ADS Group, said:
“Apprentices represent the future for our industries, which is why providing an opportunity for them to celebrate their contribution with their MP is so important. The aerospace, defence, security and space industries invest in training in every part of the UK and I am delighted that this reception provides a chance to celebrate the achievements of those working hard at the start of their careers.”


Improvement in Prostate Cancer treatment

Fiona Bruce campaigns for improvement in prostate cancer treatment

Speaking in the House of Commons last week, Fiona Bruce said:

I want to talk about the important progress that needs to be made in the drive to fight prostate cancer Cancer survival rates are now at a record high, and our access to the world’s leading cancer drugs continues to improve. However, there is always more to do, and that is certainly the case with regard to prostate cancer.
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the UK. It affects one in 10 men, so barely a family in the land will be unaffected. Indeed, my own grandfather died of it. More than 40,000 men were diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2016, and just over 10,000 men die of it each year. It is relatively rare in men under 50, but it gets more common as men get older, and the average age of diagnosis is between 70 and 74, which is often too late. It has been recognised that earlier diagnosis is the key. The Prime Minister and Health Ministers have considered what more can be done on prostate cancer, and they are looking at a range of options for further activity and taking expert advice. It is clear that the strongest chance of health gain lies in more research—particularly research that focuses on early diagnosis—together with innovative new treatments and care for men with prostate cancer.
I am pleased that, just a few days ago, the Prime Minister announced a very welcome £75 million plan to launch new research into prostate cancer. This will build on the already strong portfolio of prostate cancer research being done, and on the considerable investment that is already being put in. I know that the Department of Health and Social Care works closely with Cancer Research UK, Prostate Cancer UK, the Medical Research Council and others via the National Cancer Research Institute, which is a strategic partnership of the major UK funders of cancer research, and that the spending by that partnership on prostate cancer increased from £17 million in 2011-12 to £26 million in 2015-16.
As I say, more needs to be done, and the Government have indeed announced that substantially more will be done to help the thousands of men affected by this disease every year get treated earlier and faster. More than 40,000 patients will be recruited into prostate cancer studies over the next five years. Those studies will include trial testing, keyhole surgery, different types of radiotherapy, high-intensity focused ultrasound and cryotherapy. Other studies are seeking to identify predisposing hereditary genes, which could help to identify men at high risk, and this will include focusing on men with a family history of prostate cancer and also on black men, one in four of whom will develop the disease. Work will continue on supportive interventions, including exercise and dietary advice, and on the one-stop cancer shops being piloted in 10 areas to catch cancer early and speed up diagnosis, particularly for those suffering with less obvious symptoms. I appreciate the Secretary of State’s announcement that these plans will refocus the Government’s efforts to develop new treatments in this field.”

Responding, Government Health Minister, Stephen Brine, said “Fiona Bruce spoke well about Prostate Cancer, and I was proud that we were able to make that announcement last week”

Speaking after the debate, Fiona Bruce saidOver the almost 8 years I have been MP here, constituents have contacted me concerned about prostate cancer treatment and have been involved in campaigning for improvements and so I was particularly pleased to put on record the Government’s increased investment in this area.”


Freedom of Speech at Universities

Joint Committee on Human Rights publishes report on Freedom of Speech in Universities

The Joint Committee on Human Rights, of which Fiona Bruce, MP for Congleton, and Jeremy Lefroy, MP for Stafford, are both members, has published a report into free speech in universities, highlighting serious concerns over barriers to free speech.

Fiona Bruce MP said:

“Our cross-party Parliamentary committee found very concerning evidence of free speech being inhibited in a number of ways at universities. Examples include through unnecessarily complex application procedures to students to receive consent to invite speakers (such as speakers being required to submit an outline of their speech in advance), or as a result of unclear guidance around the Prevent legislation (designed to prevent terrorism) or, surprisingly, restrictive guidelines on student unions from the Charity Commission. It is astonishing, for example, that the Charity Commission can say in their official guidelines that because student unions are registered charities they should not engage in topics such as political prisoners imprisoned abroad, or environmental issues such as whaling.

“As our Committee says this is very concerning because universities of all places should be somewhere ideas can be explored and are a preparation for participation in wider society where free speech is so important to protect and preserve democracy.

“Evidence we received from a wide range of witnesses highlighted that at universities across the country there are overly-burdensome procedures in place for student groups to get consent to hold events, and students with minority views feel inhibited from speaking out for fear of being seen as extremist – the so-called “chilling effect”. The expression of unpopular or minority views, even if they cause offence to others at times, is not unlawful. University authorities have a legal duty to secure free speech at universities and need to do more to protect and promote this. Additionally, the new Office for Students, which comes into effect on 1st April this year, needs to be vigilant in ensuring that individuals are held to account to secure free speech on campuses, in accordance with their legal duty under the Education Act.

“We heard from the Alliance of Pro-Life Students, who told us that across the country they had difficulties getting stalls at Freshers’ Fayres. One student union passed a motion resolving never to provide a platform for pro-life groups; they found it difficult to get consent to organise meetings due to complex application processes and difficulties getting registered as a student organisation. We heard similar concerns expressed by Jewish, humanist, and other minority groups – so, for example, a group proposing to host an event with a Syrian refugee ultimately decided to cancel their event, for fear of falling foul of Prevent regulations.”

Jeremy Lefroy MP said:

“This is a very thorough report, which we hope will be useful for university authorities to help them secure and promote free speech.”

The Committee has published its own guidance for Universities and students organising events, empowering them to protect and promote this vital human right.

The Committee found that there are a number of factors which actively limit free speech in universities. These include the concept of ‘safe spaces’, which the Committee found is particularly unhelpful in that it has the potential to promote intolerance of certain legitimate views or opinions, particularly if they conflict with mainstream student policies or attitudes. The Committee received clear evidence that this is causing students to ‘self-censor’ on campus – the opposite of the promotion of free speech, which university authorities have a legal duty to ensure, including on student union premises.

As part of the report, the Committee has recommended a number of solutions including requiring universities to be more vigilant about this, holding an independent review of the Prevent policy, urging the Government to better define ‘extremism’, reviewing of Charity Commission guidance, direction for the Office for Students and guidance for how students should act to exercise their freedom of speech in free and open debate.


Ban on Ivory Sales

TITLE: Fiona Bruce MP welcomes confirmation of Government ban on ivory sales
Fiona Bruce MP has welcomed the Government’s confirmation that a ban on ivory sales will be introduced.
The Environment Secretary Gove confirmed that the UK will introduce a ban on ivory sales and has set out the Government’s plans to help protect elephants for future generations.
The maximum available penalty for breaching the ban will be an unlimited fine or up to five years in jail. The exemptions from this ban have been tightened since the Government published its proposals for consultation, but still provide balance to ensure people and organisation; are not unfairly impacted such as Museums or musicians whose instruments are old and contain a relative small proportion of ivory.

Environment Secretary, Michael Gove said:
“Ivory should never be seen as a commodity for financial gain or a status symbol, so we will introduce one of the world’s toughest bans on ivory sales to protect elephants for future generations. The ban on ivory sales we will bring into law will reaffirm the UK’s global leadership on this critical issue, demonstrating our belief that the abhorrent ivory trade should become a thing of the past.”

The number of elephants has declined by almost a third in the last decade and around 20,000 a year are still being slaughtered due to the global demand for ivory. As profits become ever greater, the illegal wildlife trade has become a transnational organised enterprise, estimated to be worth up to £17 billion a year. The further decline of elephants would also deprive some of the poorest countries in the world of their valuable natural capital, affecting economic growth and sustainable development.

John Stephenson, CEO Stop Ivory said:
This is a significant day for the future of elephants. The UK Government has taken a momentous step. The proposed ban, with its narrow and clear exemptions, places the UK at the forefront of the international determination to halt the extermination of elephant populations by banning trade in ivory. The Secretary of State for DEFRA has shown clear leadership in demanding legislation whilst there is still time to secure a future for elephants in the wild. The end of the ivory trade in the UK removes any hiding place for the trade in illegal ivory, and sends a powerful message to the world that ivory will no longer be valued as a commodity. Ivory belongs on an elephant and when the buying stops the killing will stop.

Fiona said:

“This is an issue of great significance and one that I have spoken of in Parliament having been moved by the plight of these animals following a working trip to Tanzania as a Member of Parliament’s International Development Select Committee. It is welcome news that the Government will be introducing a ban and continue on the mission to reverse the decline in the number of elephants. This issue is a global issue which harms the poorest countries the most. For example – by reducing the tourist trade on which many poor African families are dependent – as I was told in Tanzania, people who pay for safaris want to see elephants. But especially tragic is the cruelty these majestic animals endure at the hands of brutal ivory poachers – around 55 African elephants are killed for their ivory a day, their tusks turned into carvings and trinkets. I am proud that under this Government we have become a global leader in challenging the terrible ivory trade.”


Children of Alcoholics


Fiona Bruce MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Alcohol Harm and Vice-Chair of the APPG for Children of Alcoholics, has welcomed this morning’s announcement by the Government of £6 million to help identify at-risk children more quickly, and provide them with rapid access to support and advice. It is estimated 200,000 children in England living with alcohol-dependent parents.
Following the announcement, Fiona Bruce MP said:
“This is great news for some of the most vulnerable children and families in this country, and I am delighted that the Government Health Ministers have listened to those of us in the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Children of Alcoholics – of which I am Vice Chair – who have been calling for this for some time. The impact of alcohol-dependency is always much wider than the individual, and it can be the families who love the individual struggling with alcohol, who suffer most. It is important that in tackling addiction and similar health challenges, Government always carefully considers the ways in which family members and relationships can be affected – and that is exactly what this does. Linking up these estimated 200,000 children with the support and advice they need will be invaluable to so many of them. It another example of Theresa May tackling the burning injustices that affect the most vulnerable – such as these children.’
Last week in a Health debate in the House of Commons, Fiona Bruce MP, who regularly campaigns for more Government focus to tackle alcohol harm, said: ‘I now want to touch on the link between alcohol and cancer. Over recent years the Government have exhibited admirable leadership by introducing a range of tobacco control legislation, helping people to reduce smoking, and they are now doing similar work to tackle obesity. Those are both high cancer triggers, and I applaud the Government for that work. Perhaps less recognised is the fact that alcohol can also be a cause of cancer.​
‘As chair of the all-party parliamentary group on alcohol harm, I believe that this issue needs more attention from the Government, in the same way as they have looked at smoking and obesity. Indeed, consuming too much alcohol can increase the risk of at least seven types of cancer: bowel; breast; laryngeal, or cancer of the voicebox; liver; mouth; oesophageal, or cancer of the foodpipe; and pharyngeal, or cancer of the upper throat. Without being conscious about how much we drink, there is a risk that many people are drinking in a way that causes those cancers and that is preventable.
‘I ask the Government to do more to encourage people to drink responsibly to reduce cancer risks, as well as many other health risks. One way would be for the Government to help people better understand what 14 units a week, the amount in the chief medical officer’s guidelines, really means. I also ask the Government to meet me and the all-party group to discuss improving the labelling of low-alcohol and non-alcoholic drinks. That would do much to help change habits, promote responsible drinking and prevent cancer and other health risks that can come from drinking even slightly above the chief medical officer’s guidelines.’

Trefoil Guild

Fiona Bruce MP, a Guide Ambassador for Cheshire, attended the AGM of the Trefoil Guild for North West England. Guilds from across the North West were represented be several hundred Guides who met at St Mary’s Church, Sandbach, to hear reports of very active groups from across the region.
In the Trefoil Guild, men and women aged 18 and over can make new friends, travel, explore, serve their communities, and help both guiding and scouting thrive across the UK.
Fiona Bruce said “I was enormously impressed at the enthusiasm of those who attended the AGM, the huge range of community and voluntary work undertaken by Trefoil Guild Members and its increasing popularity – it was remarkable to hear reported at the AGM that in 2018 the Trefoil Guild is adding no less than 100 new members every week!”


Jobcentre Plus Travel Discout Card

Fiona Bruce is supporting the Rail Delivery Group’s initiative, on behalf of Britain’s train companies, to raise awareness about a travel discount card that helps lower the cost of finding work.

The Jobcentre Plus Travel Discount Card is available to eligible people in England, Wales and Scotland who have been out of work for 12 weeks or longer.  It offers jobseekers a 50% discount on train fares as they travel to interviews, to the Jobcentre or to and from training, for up to three months at a time.
Fiona Bruce said: ‘It is important that we do what we can to encourage and support people into work. I welcome the Jobcentre Plus and the train companies working together to provide this support which ensures jobseekers can apply for a wider range of jobs, by reducing what can be a barrier - the cost of travel. I would encourage jobseekers in my constituency to take advantage of this initiative.”


Peter Kolker standes down

TITLE: Fiona Bruce MP thanks Peter Kolker for his long service as Chairman of Congleton Constituency Conservative Association

At an event at The Vicarage in Holmes Chapel Fiona Bruce MPthanked Peter Kolker for his long service, hard work and support as Chairman of Congleton Constituency Conservative Association after he stood down as Chair this month.

Peter Kolker has served as Chair of the association for a number of years since 2009. Peter first got involved with the party in 1997, first getting elected to Congleton Borough Council in 2000.

Fiona Bruce presented Peter with a picture signed by the Prime Minister and the Association presented a gift to Peter Kolker and to his wife Judith Kolker.

Fiona said at the event: “I want to thank Peter for his work as Chairman and in particular for his kindness, wisdom and support. Peter has been remarkably dedicated and I cannot express enough thanks personally to Peter for his friendship and support.”

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