In addition to my contributions to Parliament below, in December 2014 I made contributions to the Work and Pensions Committee.
Oral Answers to Questions — Communities and Local Government — Northern Ireland – Monday 15th December
Nigel Mills: May I agree with the Secretary of State’s earlier sentiment that the solution to every problem in Northern Ireland cannot be more money from the English taxpayer? Will she now confirm that there will be no bigger offer than the £1 billion that was talked about last week to get this deal over the line?
Theresa Villiers (The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland; Chipping Barnet, Conservative): As I have said many times, the solution to these problems cannot be a big cheque from the UK Government. That is partly because it would not solve the problems, and partly because there is no more money. We have made it clear that we are not prepared to subsidise a more expansive welfare system for Northern Ireland. We are certainly prepared to continue to discuss the funding of matters such as new institutions on the past.
A&E Ambulance Services – Thursday 18th December
Nigel Mills: I welcome the extra money for the NHS this winter, but what more can the Secretary of State do to improve awareness of and confidence in the 111 system, in order to stop people going to A and E when they do not really need to do so?
Jeremy Hunt (The Secretary of State for Health; South West Surrey, Conservative): My hon. Friend asks an important question. The 111 service is one of the elements of the long-term solution that we have not touched on much this morning. There are definitely things that we can do to make the service better. For example, if someone is put through to a GP, that GP could, with the patient’s permission, access their medical records. That would give the GP access to information about the patient’s allergies, their medication history and other key information that would help the GP to give better advice. I am pleased to hear from NHS England that, by the end of this year, a third of 111 centres will be able to access GP records with the patient’s permission.
Local Government Finance – Thursday 18th December
Nigel Mills: I welcome the extra year’s funding for council tax freezes. Will the Minister join me in urging Amber Valley borough council, in its one year under Labour rule, to extend the five-year council tax freeze that operated when the Conservatives were in control?
Kris Hopkins (The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government; Keighley, Conservative): The public of Amber Valley will be watching what the Labour council does. We have given a significant amount of money, £5 billion, to enable councils to freeze their council tax for the past five years. I am sure that the public will make their decision in early May as a consequence of the choices that councils make.