Fiona Bruce spoke in favour of an Amendment to the Children Act, which passed unopposed, imposing tougher penalties on those who put young girls at risk of Female Genital Mutilation.
Fiona’s speech is as follows:
“I rise briefly to support this much-needed amendment to the Children Act 1989. I will chiefly focus my remarks with reference to the sentencing remarks of Mrs Justice Whipple in the central criminal court on 8 March 2019, following the first successful conviction in the UK of the offence of FGM. I understand there is no appeal, so I am not contravening the sub judice rule.
The circumstances of this particular incident have been described as “barbaric” and “sickening,” and they were indeed that. A 37-year-old mother was found guilty of mutilating her three-year-old daughter, and by way of highlighting the gravity and horror of the offence, I hope colleagues will forgive me for some of the graphic description I will relate from the court remarks. The conviction led to an 11-year sentence. During the proceedings, the jury heard a recording of a 999 call in which the mother said that her daughter
“had been trying to get some biscuits and had fallen on metal and the metal had ripped her private parts.”
This was a few hours after she had clearly been mutilated. Mrs Justice Whipple said that by the time the girl got to hospital,
“she had lost a lot of blood, so much so that consideration was given to transfusing her.”
The consultant operated on her that evening. The next remarks are graphic, but they show the reality of the injuries on a child just three years old:
“He observed three separate cutting injuries…one to the labia minora on the right side which was missing; one to the labia minora on the left side which was hanging by a sliver of skin; and one to the clitoris in a curvi-linear shape, with a clot formed beneath it which, when removed, caused the wound to bleed. In his view, there were three separate cuts each of which had been deliberately inflicted by a sharp instrument.”
The judge referred to those injuries having probably been inflicted by a knife, scissors or a scalpel. Four consultants, expert gynaecologists and paediatricians, separately agreed with the view that this must have been deliberately inflicted injury by a sharp instrument and that this must have been part of a joint plan—in other words, at least one other person was involved. The commission of this offence would have required the participation of more than one person. It is particularly offensive therefore that the offence was premeditated by the child’s mother, the person whom this three-year-old should have looked to most in the world for protection, and that it was carried out in her own home, where she should have felt safe. Who is to say how this will affect her ability to trust and form relationships in the future? As the judge said, there were physical consequences, but the “true significance” may become apparent only “in puberty or adulthood” when
“she recognises that her body is different, and that may cause her embarrassment or inhibition in forming intimate relationships.”​
In other words, there is a “significant and lifelong burden” for this child to carry.
Many colleagues have said that religious and cultural sensitivities should not be used in any way to justify FGM, and that of course is right. This was a terrible offence. I would go so far as to say that it was evil. It was interesting to note that in the evidence given to the police in a recorded interview this three-year-old referred to a “witch-lady”. Witchcraft objects were found in the home of the convicted individual by the police. This little three-year-old girl has been traumatically harmed, as was her nine-year-old brother, who witnessed his sister’s distress immediately after her injuries. They are both now in foster care, but after the event. It would have been far better if, under the Children Act 1989 as is now proposed, an order could have been made before to protect them from the risk of such gratuitous physical and psychological injuries.”


Congleton Copmmunity Hospital House of Commons

I was pleased to note that on announcing his long-term plan for the NHS, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care said he is a strong supporter of community hospitals, so I am today asking if Health Ministers will kindly look into how some of the additional resources announced with the long-term plan can be earmarked for the community care provided by community hospitals, such as the much loved Congleton War Memorial Hospital in my constituency.
Congleton Hospital needs sufficient resources to ensure that it can continue to provide the all-round services it has already provided for several generations of my constituents for generations to come. The hospital is much valued locally, providing a range of services, such as the minor injuries unit, which saves residents travelling some distance to hospitals further afield with A&E facilities. Minor injuries such as burns, cuts, splinters and sprains can be treated quickly and efficiently at Congleton. As one person, who sustained a hand injury, told me:
“I popped down to Congleton Hospital, the wound was treated straight away and I was back at work within the hour.”
That person would have lost at least half a day’s work travelling for treatment elsewhere.
In recent winters, the minor injuries unit has, on occasion, been closed temporarily by East Cheshire NHS Trust, with staff redeployed to Macclesfield’s A&E. Then, in September 2018, the trust stated that it expected closures to be in place throughout weekends and bank holidays, plus ad hoc weekdays, throughout this winter. As a result, the minor injuries unit is currently scheduled to open only between 9 am and 5 pm from Monday to Friday, but with additional ad hoc closures within these hours. It was not open, for example, when I visited last Friday afternoon.
It is therefore not surprising that some people in need of urgent treatment decide not to risk calling at a unit that may be closed unpredictably, with user numbers no doubt affected accordingly. It is also understandable that these closures are causing grave concern among local people. On their behalf, I am calling on Ministers to ensure, please, that resources are put in place so that valuable community hospital facilities such as Congleton Hospital’s minor injuries unit are not only stabilised but strengthened.
I congratulate the hon. Lady on bringing this issue to the Chamber. I spoke to her beforehand to ask what her thoughts were on this issue and how I might helpfully intervene. I spoke to the Minister, too. In the past few weeks, the national and provincial press have highlighted a number of incidents in hospitals. They report NHS staff referring to “war zone” conditions in A&Es. The community hospitals the hon. Lady refers to are vital for the treatment of patients, but it is also good for the mental health of NHS staff to have hospitals where they can do their job—their duty—without facing any injury or threat to their life.

The hon. Gentleman is right, as he so often is. Where they are properly resourced, minor injuries units can help relieve A&E facilities and enable them to treat more serious injuries more efficiently.
More broadly, the wide range of local healthcare services at Congleton Hospital includes a 28-bed in-patient intermediate care ward called the Aston unit, which is particularly appreciated by local families visiting patients. As the hospital’s website states, that unit helps those who no longer need the more acute wards of Macclesfield District General Hospital, relieves services there and allows people to
“recover in a homely and relaxed environment”
in Congleton. The website adds that the hospital
“has a very ‘family’ feel about it.”
The hon. Lady is making a wonderful point about the value of community hospitals. In north Staffordshire, Bradwell Hospital, Haywood Hospital and Leek Hospital all provide excellent care, but my clinical commissioning group is consulting on closing those hospitals and reducing bed spaces. Does she agree that closing community hospitals is detrimental to the overall impact of our health economy? Exactly as she says, such hospitals free up more expensive acute beds in the big hospitals and allow people who are medically fit for discharge but are not ready to go home to get the care they need.
I am sure the Minister will have heard what the hon. Gentleman has said. Indeed, that is why I entitled the debate “Community Hospitals” rather than simply “Congleton Community Hospital”.
As I have said, the hospital at Congleton has a family feel. I can testify to that following my most recent visit, just last week. I met kindly nursing staff who were clearly dedicated and committed to serving the community in and around Congleton, and who were proud to tell me that they had, through sound management, recently achieved an increase in the number of in-patients treated. About 350 are currently cared for each year in the Aston unit.
In addition to the minor injuries unit and in-patient care facilities, the hospital provides out-patient clinics, with approximately 9,000 out-patient attendances each year in a wide range of specialties. For instance, there are about 1,600 appointments a year for adult audiology treatment and about 1,000 for general surgery, and a similar number of gynaecology treatments. There are also about 2,000 trauma and orthopaedic appointments. Other services include blood tests, occupational therapy, a physiotherapy gym, district nursing, dementia services, and a highly popular GP out-of-hours service.
In my constituency, Burnham On Sea War Memorial Hospital, West Mendip Community Hospital and Shepton Mallet Community Hospital do so much of the great work that my hon. Friend is describing. Does she agree that in areas where the main hospitals are somewhat distant—in my case, Bristol, Yeovil, Taunton or Bath—community hospitals are vital in filling that gap, and it is essential for them to remain a core part of our future NHS?
 My hon. Friend has made one of my points for me. None of the major hospitals in east Cheshire lie within my constituency, although it is reasonably large, so my constituents must travel some distance to use their services.
I have mentioned the four-hour GP appointments on Saturdays and Sundays. They are always full, and are meeting a very clear local need. The convenience of such services cannot be overstated. During my visit, an elderly gentleman, clearly frail, arrived asking for directions to the X-ray department. I watched as he was directed to it immediately. He was seen, and he departed. All that happened within what seemed to me to be about three minutes flat.
The value of such local services for a population like mine, which contains a higher than average number of older residents, cannot be overstated. They are particularly appreciated by those who are less mobile owing to age or infirmity, or for whom a lack of convenient public transport facilities would make travel to the larger hospitals outside my constituency very difficult, if not impossible. Moreover, 9,000 fewer out-patient appointments across east Cheshire must reduce congestion.
The trust informs me that the Congleton Hospital site also has space for use by other NHS organisations, including providers of mental health and health visiting services. As local health partners and providers increasingly work together in support of their local communities’ health and wellbeing, Congleton Hospital, located as it is almost in the centre of the town, is ideally placed to become an even more strategic community health hub for additional services.
The hon. Lady is making a powerful speech on behalf of community hospitals. South Bristol Community Hospital was opened only in 2012, after 60 years of campaigning by local people. As three providers run different services in it and as it is a LIFT building, no one is really responsible for making it work. Does the hon. Lady agree that the health service must bear in mind that such hospitals are developed and fundamentally loved by their communities, and that those communities should have the ultimate say in what goes into them?

The hon. Lady is absolutely right. Indeed, members of the community in Congleton are speaking out about the importance to them of their community hospital. I shall say more about that shortly.
On behalf of my constituents, I am pressing Ministers to consider resourcing Congleton Hospital as a community hub going forward. It has a very special place in local people’s hearts, as I have said, not least because of the manner in which it was funded many decades ago by local people’s contributions from wage packet deductions. It was founded in 1924 by public subscription as a memorial to those locally who gave their lives in the first world war, hence its full name: Congleton War Memorial Hospital. I spoke at greater length about this here in this place in 2014, when I raised concerns about the future sustainability of the hospital, so this is by no means a new issue. Indeed, in 1962 when there was a suggestion that the hospital be closed, it resulted in a mass meeting in the town hall with an overflow of some 2,000 residents, presided over by the then mayor leading a petition of 24,000 signatures. Plans were quickly dropped. More recently, the £20 billion additional funding announced by the Prime Minister for investment in the NHS surely offers an opportunity for the future of the hospital to be secured, or even augmented as a community hub for the long term.
I have been in continuing dialogue for some months now with—and have met, together with local councillors—John Wilbraham, chief executive of the local NHS trust responsible for the management of the hospital, the East Cheshire NHS Trust. I am grateful to Mr Wilbraham for that open dialogue. We spoke again recently when he confirmed that, in his words, the sustainability of the site is on the agenda for the transformation programme to be discussed by the trust shortly. So also on the agenda is the future of the minor injuries unit, which is, as I have mentioned, causing particular concern to residents, as the trust is aware from recent public demonstrations which involved people from right across the community and political divides, including me and Congleton town mayor Suzie Akers Smith, who was in full mayoral regalia and chain.
I am grateful that Mr. Wilbraham has agreed to meet a cross-party group in the town shortly to discuss the hospital’s future further and look forward to that meeting. In the meantime, for the record I note that in his most recent letter to me of late December 2018 he confirmed, and I welcome this, that
“the Trust has no plans to change the service provision at the Congleton Hospital site and this remains the case. I continue to discuss with health and social care partners about the service offer from the hospital site and I understand the desire of you and the local population to maintain the facility. We await the publication of the NHS 10-Year Plan in early 2019 which provides the basis for the local health partners, including the town’s GPs, to set out its plans for the next 5-10 years. I am certain this will provide the opportunity to be clear on future service provision across the local health economy including Congleton.”
I am optimistic that both Mr. Wilbraham, as its chief executive, and the trust itself have listening ears. We need only witness the furore that arose in Congleton three years ago when there was a suggestion that car-parking charges be introduced at the hospital. The trust clearly registered the indignation of local residents, not least through a petition I presented here in Parliament at that time. That they could be asked to pay to park at their own hospital—a hospital they and their forebears had paid for by both wage packet deduction and subsequent fundraising and donations over the decades—aroused considerable consternation. The trust subsequently discounted the suggestion of car park charges outright; it listened to local people’s concerns.
I was pleased to note the chief executive’s reconfirmation of this in his most recent letter to me, with the words:
“I note the suggestion of car parking charges being introduced to supplement the income for the hospital site but this is not something the Board will be considering.”
Now that the 10-year plan has been published, and in the light of the Secretary of State’s indication of his support for community hospitals, I am today asking the Minister what more can be done to ensure that vital services provided by community hospitals in the heart of our local communities, like Congleton, are not swallowed up by larger hospitals at a distance. What the Congleton community seeks is reassurance that the future of Congleton hospital is put on a firm, clear and sustainable footing going forward, so that the periodic recurring concerns over the years about its future can be fully and finally put to rest.
 I would like to start by thanking my hon. Friend the Member for Congleton (Fiona Bruce) for bringing forward this incredibly important matter for debate, and for articulating so beautifully the great value of the Congleton War Memorial Hospital to her constituency. I would also like to reiterate the important role that community hospitals play in local areas. She could not have articulated those great values more beautifully this evening.
Community hospitals provide vital in-patient care for people who need it most. As a whole, patients should be supported to recover in the most appropriate setting, which is quite often back in the heart of their local community and closer to home. However, community hospitals do far more than just provide hospital beds. They also offer a range of out-patient services that provide much-needed support to patients, including physical therapy, lab tests, X-rays and counselling. They can also contain minor injuries units, which, as we have heard, can have people in and out and back to work or back home much more quickly. They also offer a welcome local alternative to the big emergency facilities at an acute hospital that is many miles away. To its credit, Congleton Hospital already does all this for its local community and for local people. It is these services, this outreach and these minor injuries units that place these institutions firmly at the heart of their local communities.
The Government are absolutely committed to ensuring that patients have access to care that is as close as possible to where they live. This is very evident in the NHS long-term plan, which focuses on shifting to a new way of delivering care, with services in the community at the very forefront of planning. Community hospitals represent much more than just medical services. Many, such as Congleton Hospital and my own, the Gosport War Memorial Hospital, were originally built through the donations of local people to address local need many decades ago. It is this history, along with the important services that they provide, that make community hospitals the object of affection and appreciation in local communities. It is therefore important that any planning decisions about these much-loved institutions must be taken locally, and with enormous care and the utmost sensitivity. Fundamentally, this is about developing sustainable health and care services in the community. We care deeply about ensuring that residents in all areas can access excellent health and care services, both now and in the future.
 Our social media timelines are busy enough at the moment, so in order to avoid attracting the ire of a quarter of my constituents, I must remedy the fact that I neglected to mention the brilliant Weston-super-Mare General Hospital in my intervention. I am putting it on the record now.
 I am glad that my hon. Friend said that, because if he had not, I would have been forced to do so. We should all celebrate the hospital provision in Weston-super-Mare and the great work that is being done there.
We care deeply about ensuring that residents in all local areas can access excellent health and care services, both now and well into the future, and that is why the NHS is this Government’s No. 1 spending priority. The NHS budget will increase by £33.9 billion in cash terms by 2023-24, which is the single biggest cash increase in the NHS’s history. We have set out the what, and we now have to set out the how, which is why we are focusing on successfully implementing the NHS long-term plan. The NHS will develop a clear implementation framework, setting out how the long-term plan’s commitments will be delivered by local systems. This will be shared shortly, and it is being led by NHS England.
My hon. Friend asked whether some of the additional resources from the NHS funding settlement could be earmarked for community care so that valuable community resources such as Congleton Hospital can continue to deliver their vital services. I can confirm that we have prioritised investment in primary and community healthcare through the long-term plan, in which we have committed at least an extra £4.5 billion a year to primary medical and community health services. That additional money will fund expanded community multi-disciplinary teams and will help to ensure that, within five years, all parts of the country will have improved community health response services that can be delivered by flexible teams working across primary care and local hospitals, and developed to meet local needs.

I fear that the Minister may have been about to answer my question, so I apologise if she was. I welcome the suggestion that community care should be the focus of part of the new investment that is coming into the NHS. Where CCGs take a decision to reduce the number of community facilities in their area, what recourse will the public have to say, “The Minister said this, but your actions are different”? In places such as Stoke-on-Trent, what the Government are outlining is not what our CCG is doing.
The hon. Gentleman makes an incredibly strong point. I often stand at the Dispatch Box—usually during Adjournment debates—having listened to hon. Members talk about CCG decisions that they feel may not be in the best interests of their local area, but it is up to local areas to decide. The whole point of devolving money and decision making down to CCGs is that we trust them to be able to make the best decisions in the best interests of local communities to deliver services that best meet needs and priorities. If the hon. Gentleman feels that that is not happening and if he has had the opportunity to discuss that with his CCG, it could be a good idea to take the matter up with NHS England.
CCG funding allocations are decided by an independent committee, which advises NHS England on how to target health funding in line with a funding allocation formula. This objective method of allocation supports equal opportunity of access and reduces health inequalities. That way, the decision of where taxpayers’ money goes is decided in an independent and impartial manner.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Congleton will be aware, it is down to the CCG—in this case Eastern Cheshire CCG—to decide how it spends its allocation and to determine which services are the right ones for the local community it serves. One would hope that CCGs have the necessary clinical knowledge and local expertise to make informed decisions on how to spend taxpayers’ money. To support the long-term planning of services, NHS England has already informed all CCGs about how much funding they can expect to receive between 2019-20 and 2023-24. My hon. Friend may be interested to know that Eastern Cheshire CCG’s funding will increase from £270.2 million to £311.6 million over that period—a substantial increase. I hope that she will agree that that information gives CCGs the stability to plan appropriately and establish their services for the long term.
I do not disagree with much of the thrust of what the Minister is saying, because CCGs—I used to work for one—do spend taxpayers’ money. She will often have heard hon. Members say that there is no link between the accountability for that money, the work that we do as Members of Parliament and the decisions that are made by CCGs. The new NHS plan looks like it may want to do something about that, but will the Government send a message to NHS England and the CCGs that local democratic accountability must somehow start to be built into the CCG decision-making process?
The hon. Lady makes an interesting point, and it is one with which I have a certain sympathy. When NHS England comes up with the implementation plan for the long-term plan, I hope it will include suggestions as to how such issues might be addressed.
It is important to remember that the NHS is close to all our hearts. Fundamentally, it belongs to the people of this country. It is founded on a common set of principles and values that bind together the communities and people it serves. For that reason, it is welcome to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Congleton talk so highly of the open and honest relationship between her local NHS and the residents of Congleton. The examples she gave of the decision-making process for introducing car parking charges highlights how local people in Congleton are being listened to and, if I might say so, it says a lot for the people of Congleton. It takes a lot for the people of Congleton to demonstrate, but this shows that they do so effectively when they decide to take such action.
I commend my hon. Friend for the role she has played in the work to protect her local hospital and for all her activities in that direction. I also commend her for her ongoing efforts in forging constructive relationships, which are so important. These open conversations between health systems and the people they serve will, ultimately, allow us to continue building a sustainable future for the NHS.


Speaking in a debate in the House of Commons on tackling anti-Semitism Fiona Bruce said:

“I am sure that I represent all Members of this House in saying that the Jewish community is and has been a real blessing to our nation throughout its history; both inside and outside this House, Jewish individuals have contributed in extraordinary ways to the culture and prosperity we all share. We should take this opportunity to honour and thank their community for the contribution they make to our common good. In recognising and celebrating the Jewish community, we should condemn unequivocally all antisemitic behaviour suffered by our Jewish brothers and sisters. One antisemite is one too many, and there is much work to be done to tackle this.
Today, I wish to focus on the responses to the problem. An effect response will flow partly from the following two principles. First, we must do all we can through education to understand and accept our differences, and in this context our religious differences in particular. Although respect for freedom of religion and belief should not give special privileges to the religious, it should allow believers like our Jewish brothers and sisters the maximum possible freedom to live out and profess publicly who they are and what they believe. Secondly, we must re-emphasise the things that bind us all together, whatever our background or beliefs, and first and foremost that means our innate value as individual human beings—our shared humanity.
Before I touch on those principles in a little more detail, let me just say that true tolerance cannot just be of religions or practices with which we agree; it must also be of those who may be quite different from ourselves. Neither is true tolerance best fostered by state-established measures of what is good for all; rather, it is fostered by enabling those who are different to exist ​freely and together with those differences. One way to promote that is to facilitate better religious education in schools.
As chair of the all-party group on religious education, I am aware of the number of highly dedicated RE teachers throughout the country, yet as our report “Improving Religious Literacy: A Contribution to the Debate” highlighted, over recent years RE has not been given the priority or resources that it should have had in many schools. I am pleased that Education Ministers are now seeking to address this, because for many children today RE serves as the main or sole space in which they encounter and discuss different religious beliefs, values and meaning.
Poor-quality RE can have a lasting detrimental effect on the extent of children’s ability to understand and engage with those of different faiths. In turn, that can affect their ability throughout life to engage intelligently and positively in an increasingly diverse society. A submission to the all-party group from the University of Chester department of theology and religious studies said:
“Religious literacy enables willingness and ability to live with religious and cultural tensions and with conflicting beliefs and practices. It supports social cohesion by providing spaces where different views can be aired, listened to and engaged with without the pressure to conform to an overall perspective.”
Good religious education will help to promote community cohesion, which is critical as the shape of our communities changes. I am pleased that the Secretary of State for Education appreciates that, too. He noted recently:
“It is mandatory for all state funded schools to teach RE and it is important that they do this well. Good quality religious education not only helps schools meet their legal duty to promote children and young people’s spiritual and moral development. It also gives them knowledge of the values and traditions of Britain and other countries, and so fosters mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs.”
Lord Alton said in the other place:
“Religious literacy and understanding of faith and no faith, the honouring of difference, the determination to understand one another and to reconsider bigotry, prejudice and caricatures, must surely be at the heart of how we form tomorrow’s citizens.”—[Official Report, House of Lords, 17 December 2018; Vol. 794, c. GC158.]
We can promote true tolerance by reasserting the rights and respect owed to each person simply by virtue of their humanity. These rights, as intended in the universal declaration of human rights, assume that we all have equality by virtue of our humanity.
I was speaking about the importance of our individual humanity, which we should respect before any differences in intelligence, strength, religion, ability or political views. We should understand that each of us is individually and uniquely created, and that no insignificant person has ever or will ever be born. It is this vision of dignity in our shared humanity that was lost during the holocaust.
My favourite teacher at school—I know we all had one—was a German who had, with her father, helped Jewish children escape from the Nazis. They then had to escape themselves. She taught me German, but she also taught me something far more important than that. She taught me that no ideology should take precedence over respect for an individual as a human being and as a person.
I note that we subtly enable persecution every time we promote the use of language that often accompanies identity politics. Our political opponents are not necessarily wicked. They are certainly not scum. They are due a respectable ear and proper dialogue. Those who differ from us, whether in their political or religious views, or in their ethnicity, are first and foremost our brothers and sisters in humanity. I know that our Jewish brothers and sisters teach and promote these principles. As a society, let us stand alongside them and do all we can to enable them to flourish in their unique identity and beliefs.”


Funds for Leighton Hospital

Fiona Bruce MP urges Government to provide more funds for emergency services at Leighton Hospital during winter weather

Fiona Bruce MP is backing a campaign to ensure that the Accident and Emergency Unit at Leighton Hospital secures more funding after the Hospital lost out on receiving a share of extra funding made available for winter.
The campaign was set up after it was revealed that Leighton will not be receiving any of the additional £145million of Government funding made available to hospitals to support them during the winter period.
Fiona Bruce saidI cannot accept the argument that the A&E at Leighton is too small to qualify for additional winter funding. It is used by a wide swathe of my constituents living in Middlewich and Holmes Chapel through to Sandbach and Alsager, as well as by residents further afield.  This is why my colleague, Dr Kieran Mullan, Conservative Candidate for MP for Crewe and Nantwich, himself a medical doctor by profession, has set up a Petition. I am not only supporting the Petition for more funding for Leighton but have also written to NHS Improvement urging them to rethink the winter funding allocations, and to work with the management at Leighton to help improve capacity so that those working on the front line can deliver the timely, high quality care they want to 365 days of the year.
I back this Petition to secure this vital boost for Leighton Hospital and I would urge your readers to do the same - https://www.drkieranmullan.org.uk/sign-leighton-hospital-petition.”


Fiona Bruch MP speaks up for one million Uyghur Muslims in concentration camps in China

Fiona Bruce MP spoke up for Uyghur Muslims and other persecuted groups in China in Parliament and called for action by Ministers in conjunction with their counterparts in the United States.
Fiona Bruce said: “This situation is absolutely shocking and the world should be shouting out about it  - have we learnt nothing from the Holocaust?”
Speaking in Westminster Hall, Fiona Bruce, Chair of the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission, told of a number of areas of grave concern. Areas of concern included: reports from Uyghur people living abroad whose relatives in China have ‘disappeared’; perhaps more than one million people detained in ‘re-education camps’; the use of Uyghur girls as sex slaves for Communist party officials and as bartering chips; the forced consumption of pork and alcohol; children as young as three years old detained; children of those whose parents are detained simply being abandoned, with a case of child being found frozen; and children as young as six months being locked up locked up like farm animals in a shed.
The Uyghur people primarily live in the Xinjiang province in China and predominately practice Islam. Their treatment has been a cause for concern for international human rights organisation such as Amnesty International for a number of years and the BBC has reported extensively on the re-education camps where the Uyghur people have been detained.
In concluding her speech Fiona Bruce MP spoke of the action being taken by the US Congress and called on similar action by the UK Government, saying: This month, members of Congress and the Senate introduced the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act, which calls for the President to condemn the abuses, for the Secretary of State to co-ordinate closely with the traditional allies on targeted sanctions and restrictions, and for the appointment of a US special co-ordinator for the Uyghur autonomous region. It also calls on the private sector to conduct due diligence in dealings with China, and asks the FBI to track and take steps to hold accountable officials from China who harass, threaten or intimidate US citizens and legal permanent residents. I hope the Minister will join me in welcoming this action from the US and that he will co-ordinate with his counterparts there on this situation."
After the debate Fiona Bruce said: “The treatment of Uyghur people in China is truly horrifying and foretells a terrifying future for other religious minorities that also face daily persecution and restriction of their liberty, including the large Christian minority. We have a duty to speak up and must.”


Fiona Bruce MP lambasts Government on school funding in her constituency

Speaking in the Commons this week Fiona Bruce MP lambasted the Government on behalf of head teachers in her constituency for school funding shortages saying:
Before the debate, I wrote to every primary and high school headteacher in my constituency. All seven senior school headteachers, whether in free schools, academies or multi-academy trusts, sent a collective response stating that they cannot remember morale being so low, the main reason being the lack of funding into schools, and that standards—high in Cheshire East—will be adversely affected.
The heads asked me to bring four key messages to Parliament. I will quote their words, which are strong:
“The Government must stop misleading the country by stating that record amounts are being spent on education when”,
according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, since 2010, in Cheshire East
“the amount spent per child has fallen in real terms by 8%.”
Secondly, they say:
“The Government must commit to an index linked approach to the national formula so that all schools are able to deal with changes that are outside of their control, such as increased employer NI and pension contributions”,
as well as underfunded pay awards and other cost pressures. They say that there has been a 10% rise in staff costs in our schools since 2017 alone. Their third and fourth points are:
“The Government must demonstrate that every school in the country will gain enough funding via the Age Weighted Pupil Unit to run a school regardless of the characteristics of its pupils.​
The Government should provide a long-term commitment to educational funding in a similar manner to the National Health Service.”
A major issue, say the heads, is that schools go from year to year with no annual Government statements or decisions about school funding, so there is no long-term planning. That makes it impossible for heads to plan or budget for the future. I have known most of them for many years and, dedicated as they are, it is remarkable that they carry on under the relentless pressure they experience year on year. One says:
“the role of the Head Teacher is becoming an impossible responsibility to fulfil, due to significant constraints on the financial viability of schools.”
To quote the seven heads again,
“school finances in Cheshire East are in a terrible state, despite the NFF promises made in July 2017.”
The Schools Minister knows that that was when funding of £4,800 per secondary school pupil was announced as a result, as we have heard, of a sustained campaign by headteachers, including those in my constituency. In Cheshire East, however, the heads tell me that they are not receiving £4,800. Instead, they receive: £4,018 for every key stage 3 child, £4,804 for every key stage 4 child and £3,971 for every key stage 5 child. That represents a reduction of 1% each year since 2014. Overall expenditure on school sixth forms has fallen in real terms by 16.3% since 2014. Funding for 16 to 19-year-olds is now 21% lower than funding for 11 to 16-year-olds, which makes it very difficult to run a broad sixth-form curriculum.
What is the impact of such figures on our schools? The heads state:
“Pastoral support…cut or removed at a time when the need is greater than ever…Class sizes have increased to unmanageable numbers and teacher contact ratios have been increased…over what is acceptable. SEN needs of pupils are not being met as they should. Courses have been cut, especially at KS5…denying many young people the opportunity to study what they want to. The…potential closure of multiple post-16 institutions across Cheshire East…Schools are having to continually restructure at all levels…to save money”,
reducing support for young people and staff year after year. Many schools have recently undergone ICFP—integrated curriculum financial planning—reviews, as recommended by the Government. The independent advisers said they cannot see where any savings can be made without the impacts I have just listed.
My hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (David Rutley) also continues to work hard to support schools in his constituency. As a Minister, he is not able to participate in the debate, but I am grateful to him for having organised a meeting, as a local MP, with the Secretary of State. Before his ministerial appointment, my right hon. Friend the Member for Tatton, my hon. Friend the Member for Eddisbury (Antoinette Sandbach) and I were able to discuss with him the important issue of school funding.
I turn now to primary schools. Many heads wrote to me—too many to quote them all, so I will quote just some:
“Finding it impossible to balance our budget.”
“Costs continue to escalate outside of our control from NI increases, regrading for Living Wage, national pay rises for teachers and non-teaching staff, local government pension increases, cost of energy and utilities, and general inflationary pressures.”​
“If a child starts my school after the first week in October, I will receive no funding for them until 22 months later.”
“SEND Funding...is made up of a number of proxy factors, but 25% of this is deprivation. Just because you may have special needs, it doesn’t mean you’re deprived and...just because you’re deprived doesn’t mean you’re special needs...The current formula makes a postcode lottery out of special needs funding.”
“In 2019-20 in Cheshire East...39 out of 124 primaries will get less than last year. 31% of primaries will lose an average of 3-4%...The very small schools, such as rural schools, suffer further loses: 8 out of 16 small schools will get less than last year, with an average loss of over 8%”.
“The whole NFF formula needs to be revised...and…in Cheshire East schools actually receive just £2,928 for every primary aged child”—
not the £3,500 that they should get. Another head said:
“Funding for SEN is now at crisis point in Cheshire East.”
I want to finish with the comments of a new head, which moved me deeply:
“As a new Head, I have been overwhelmed by the constraints of our budget...We are particularly struggling with support for pupils with additional needs...support from the SEND Team at County has been limited because they are overspent and cannot afford to meet children’s needs...Services such as Special Needs, Safeguarding and Looked After are overspent and cannot offer the support and guidance that school and families need...The lack of funding in education in Cheshire is causing great hardship...It is heartbreaking to be supporting a child who needs alternative provision and to have to explain to their parents that there is nothing more you can do...If we don’t support our more complex children, we risk pupils being hurt, property being broken, and learning disrupted...We have a number of children suffering with mental health issues, and are witnessing self-harm”—
this is at primary-school age. They continued:
“We frequently find Health and Safety issues, but are unable to correct them because we don’t have the funds...I am also concerned that talented staff will leave the profession.”
I note that the petition for a longer debate on fairer funding had been signed by 1,424 of my constituents as of this morning. That is 1.5% of them. I will of course speak again in that debate on 4 March, because I have much more to relate from my teachers, but time does not permit today.”


Fiona Bruce MP speaks up for Donna Louise in Parliament

Fiona Bruce MP spoke up in Parliament to commend the work of Donna Louise Children’s Hospice and raise concerns on behalf of the hospice with Ministers.

Donna Louise Children’s Hospice provides children’s and young people’s hospice services across Staffordshire and south-east Cheshire, including Congleton, Sandbach, Middlewich and Alsager. Fiona Bruce spoke out on behalf of families who rely on The Donna Louise, raising the hospice’s concern that the lack of consistent funding poses a constant challenge and echoed the hospice’s call on the Government to improve funding for children’s hospices.

Speaking in Parliament this week, Fiona Bruce said:

“I commend the work of the Donna Louise Children’s Hospice in Stoke-on-Trent, which provides children’s and young people’s hospice services across Staffordshire and south-east Cheshire. It has written to me this week—given that time is short, I will pass the Minister a copy of the letter after the debate. It talks about the quality of palliative care as patchy:
“The way in which NHS CCGs and local authorities plan, fund and monitor children’s palliative care in hospitals, children’s hospices and the community represents”— as we have heard—​ “a postcode lottery. Staffordshire has no coherent plan and this is reflected in the poor financial support the Hospice receives from local commissioners. Donna Louise receives 8.9% of its income from the NHS”.
The hospice calls on the Government and NHS England “to consider appropriate mechanisms to bridge the children’s palliative care accountability gap.”

Fiona Bruce MP said after the debate:

The Donna Louise said:
“Thank you to MP for Congleton, Fiona Bruce for speaking out in Parliament yesterday on behalf of families who rely on The Donna Louise. The lack of consistent funding poses a constant challenge and we are so grateful to have the voices of local families heard.”


Farmers' meeting with Neil Parish MP, Chair of EFRA Select Committee

On Friday 14th December Neil Parish MP met local farmers at the request of Fiona Bruce MP.
The meeting was held at the family farm of Ray Brown in Twemlow where Mr Brown’s new project, Bidlea Dairy, which will open soon, was showcased.
Fiona Bruce MP said:
This meeting came directly out of a number of discussions I have had with farmers in my constituency this year.
“Neil Parish MP is the “Farmers’ Champion” in Parliament, being a farmer himself, which is why I was so keen to invite him to hear directly the concerns of Cheshire farmers, which, as Chair of the Environment Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee, Neil is ideally placed to take up in depth in the House of Commons.
“I was delighted that so many farmers turned up - over 70 people attended the meeting –and that with regard to a number of issues raised, such as Leader Scheme Funding, Rural Farm Payments, the Agriculture Bill currently under consideration in Parliament and maintaining markets for the high quality UK farm produce, Neil proposes to take these back to Government Ministers, or scrutinise some of the issues raised through his Select Committee.”

Speaking after the event Neil Parish MP said:
I was very pleased to be invited to Fiona Bruce’s constituency to talk to her farmers and explain the Agriculture Bill – the first Agriculture Bill for 70 years – a fundamental change with environmental management very much at the forefront of the Bill.
“I was very keen to reinforce the need for food production across all sectors of agriculture, Cheshire being particularly famous for milk and cheeses.  I am also very keen to work with the farmers of Cheshire, along with Fiona, to support and enhance the excellent farming and food production within the county of Cheshire and across the country as well as making sure that the future imports of food meet our high welfare standards.”

Cheshire NFU representatives (contact details below) were also invited and promoted the meeting to local farmers. The meeting was also attended by Cheshire East Council Cabinet Member for Health, Cllr Janet Clowes.

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Fiona Bruce MP calls on Rail Minister to improve Alsager Rail Services

In a speech in Parliament, addressing Rail Minister Andrew Jones MP, Fiona Bruce said:
“As a Cheshire MP, I speak on behalf of residents of the town of Alsager, which my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent South (Jack Brereton) mentioned in his excellent speech.
Alsager station is just a mile from the Staffordshire border. The rail route from it passes through Staffordshire, runs to Stoke-on-Trent and beyond, and is served by the same rail companies: East Midlands Trains, London Northwestern Railway and West Midlands Railway. In his speech, my hon. Friend harked back to the days when many of the workers in the pottery manufacturing companies travelled conveniently to their jobs in the Stoke area, including from Alsager. I think trains are particularly valued by Alsager residents for that reason. One wrote to me that
“Alsager residents value their trains, particularly as bus services aren’t brilliant, but there needs to be better communication between train companies and better links between stations.”
I will come on to the detail of that in a moment.
Earlier this month, I held a surgery late one evening at Congleton station. I was impressed, though not entirely surprised, that no less than 30 to 40 residents came along on a dark wintry evening. I know from my postbag that there are considerable concerns in my constituency about train services. Many of the points raised by residents at that meeting are echoed by residents in Alsager. They include a lack of joined-up thinking by rail companies on the services and timing of trains; trains are too infrequent and often overcrowded, and they stop too early in the evening; and there is some confusion and a perception of unfairness about charges. Having held that surgery with Congleton residents, I now contribute to this debate on behalf of my Alsager residents.
I have four points, and I apologise if some appear to be somewhat technical in detail, but the detail of timing can make all the difference to a daily commuter, and the detail of charges can make all the difference to young people for whom finances are a big consideration. The main issue is that, with only two trains an hour each way from Alsager, they are timetabled too closely together—only five minutes apart. I have raised that with train operators to no avail, so I hope that the Minister might be able to do something. I know he is a very hard-working and earnest Minister, always smiling, whatever is put before him.
Here is an example of the problem: the 11.11 am from Alsager to Stoke is followed by the 11.16 am from Alsager to Stoke, provided by a different service. The next train is at 12.11 pm. The trains that arrive close together from Crewe can also cause problems for cars and congestion at the barriers at Alsager, because the barriers can be down for 10 minutes or more. Passengers who aim for the later of the two trains, but arrive a little short of time, albeit with enough time to make their train, can be stuck on the other side of a barrier that has been down since the earlier train, and they miss their train.
My second point is on ticket pricing. An advance single ticket from Stoke to Manchester can cost as little as £6.10, but an anytime ticket from Alsager via Crewe, which is two stops closer to Manchester, costs £12.70. I asked the young person who raised this with me, “Can you not buy an advance ticket from Alsager?” They said, “Yes, technically you can buy an advance ticket from Alsager to Manchester, but it is not economical. You buy the £6.10 advance ticket from Stoke to Manchester, and to make use of that, you pay £5.10 to travel two stops back on the line from Alsager to Stoke.” The difference in price for a young person travelling regularly is a big one.
My third point is about the lack of connectivity and joined-up thinking. To get from Alsager to Congleton on the train, a passenger would have to go via Stoke or Kidsgrove. I drive that in about 10 minutes by car, but travelling by rail can involve long waits for connecting trains. The connecting trains are not well timed or organised. I apologise for the figures here, but to get to Manchester, National Rail recommends the 11.16 am to Kidsgrove, which is one stop further away from Manchester, which gets in at 11.21 am; there is then a 40-minute wait for the 12.03 pm to Manchester. The passenger might as well drive to Kidsgrove and park there—if they have a car. Again, that is not always practical for young people. Alternatively, there is a 24-minute wait at Crewe station, but the ticket is about £1 more expensive, so it is cheapest and quickest to pay £5.10 to go two stops back to Stoke, then catch a quicker and cheaper £6.10 train to Manchester from there. That is all too confusing unless someone is very familiar with the way the trains work.
My fourth and final point relates to a promise made in August 2017, when a West Midlands Rail spokesman said:
“The new franchisee, West Midlands Trains Limited, will continue to run direct services to London from Stone, Kidsgrove, Stoke-on-Trent and Alsager.”
Alsager passengers all hope that they will still be getting the service in December this year—three days’ time—as suggested then. The franchisee representative continued:
“The only difference from December 2018 is that these services will go to Euston via...Birmingham...rather than Tamworth and Lichfield on the Trent Valley Line. The change of route for London bound services so they run through the heart of the West Midlands Conurbation follows a major public consultation in 2015 where the majority of passengers said they wanted more trains from Stone, Kidsgrove, Stoke-on-Trent and Alsager to Birmingham.”
My constituents tell me that not much has been said about that since then. It would be very helpful to know whether the service to London is going to go ahead in three days’ time.”

Andrew Jones MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport responded:
One particular feature of colleague concern has been communication and collaboration between the different parts of our rail network, whether on the detail of the 12.11 and the 12.16 at Alsager, or on the services to London—which I believe will continue but, from May next year, are likely to go via New Street station in Birmingham. My hon. Friend the Member for Congleton (Fiona Bruce) highlighted a number of other questions, as have a lot of colleagues, and I will go through the record of the debate to ensure that I write to everyone with the detailed answers they sought. From May next year, however, she may at least expect an attractive service via New Street.”


Alsager Parade

Fiona Bruce MP and Joëlle Warren DL, Vice Lord Lieutenant of Cheshire, joined the parade through Alsager to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of Armistice Day, on Sunday 11thNovember, and led the wreath laying by many representatives from the local community at the Cenotaph.
After a service at St Mary’s Church, led by Rev. Michelle Goodrich, a commemorative afternoon tea party was held at Alsager Civic.
Fiona Bruce MP said:
‘Year on year, on Remembrance Sunday, more and more local people come out onto the streets to remember the sacrifice of those brave men who fought and died to secure our peace.’
‘This year, on the 100thAnniversary, it was quite remarkable to see how many people and community groups attended not only the wreath laying but also the church service at St Mary’s. Afterwards, it was a delight to see Alsager Civic so full for the Commemorative Afternoon Tea Party to celebrate the peace.’
‘It was particularly good to see all different ages represented, and those from the services, such as the Fire Officers from Alsager Station, and the young Alsager Air Cadets, whose band both led the parade to the Cenotaph strongly and then entertained us impressively during afternoon tea. It was also a pleasure to look at the lovely tributes in the exhibition in the Civic created by local school children.’

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