I welcome the government’s decision to look at the way school funding is allocated, especially given that Gloucestershire has been historically underfunded. However, I do appreciate the concerns raised regarding the proposed formula and have met with the Schools Minister a number of times to communicate those concerns. I have urged a rethink to ensure schools in Gloucestershire are adequately funded in order to carry out their excellent work.
I raised concerns with the Lord Chancellor and welcome that there will be no immediate increase in probate fees. I will continue to oppose such changes moving forward.
I agree that we need to make progress on moving towards a ban. The government has committed to bringing an end to elephant poaching and in September 2016 a ban was proposed on trade in worked ivory from the last 70 years, which would make UK rules on ivory some of the toughest in the world. The government intends to consult on these plans in order to assess how best we can enforce this.
I have raised this issue with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. The Minister has responded outlining:
"An independent study published in 2013 to identify and assess the impacts and risks associated with sky lanterns suggested that the risks to animals or damage to the environment by sky lanterns were relatively minor, and reported that voluntary action and initiatives have been shown to be effective.
Any action we take must be proportionate to the level of risk. An outright ban would be disproportionate in the circumstances, so across government, we have been taking forward a series of non-regulatory measures aimed at minimising the risks associated with sky lanterns and driving up safety standards. Local Authorities are also using existing powers to restrict or regulate the use of lanterns on council-owned land."
Our NHS and social care systems face significant financial challenges as a result of an ageing and growing population. While we have been very successful at elongating quantity of life, quality of life has not always kept up in some cases and, increasingly, older people are also living with multiple long-term conditions. 70% of total expenditure on the NHS is currently spent on long-term conditions.
However, the government has responded to these pressures, providing the NHS with a further £10 billion a year in real terms. Furthermore since 2010 there are more than 10,000 additional doctors and almost 6,200 more nurses on our wards.
GP surgeries are also under pressure and I raised the issue of GP funding with the Secretary of State for Health previously. Following this the Secretary of State announced £2.4bn a year to be injected into GP services by 2020 which is much needed. There is also important work to be done in making people aware of the services Community Pharmacies offer in terms of primary care. We have made good progress on these issues but there is more work to be done in order to put the NHS on a sustainable footing for the future.