I hope that the whole House will read the speech of Vicky Foxcroft and feel that she has done something incredibly brave and courageous today. To my hon. Friends who have proposed this debate, I say that nothing but the greatest respect is due. To my hon. Friend Antoinette Sandbach, who talked about this with such courage and straightforwardness, I say that all our thoughts are with her and all the other parents who have suffered these terrible losses.
I do not think that it is possible—having heard the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford I know that it is not possible—for anyone who has not suffered the unbearable tragedy of the loss of a child truly to understand the grief, the pain and the hopeless feelings that it must involve. I therefore warmly congratulate my hon. Friends the Members for Eddisbury and for Colchester (Will Quince) on securing this very important debate.
I will, if the House will allow me, speak about two issues. For the past 15 years, I have worked with a wonderful charity in my constituency that is very close to my heart and I greatly admire. I am patron of Group B Strep Support. I first became aware of the work of the charity in 2003 when its founder and chief executive, Jane Plumb—a remarkable woman—came to see me to raise the issue of group B strep. Jane and her husband, Robert, lost their middle son, Theo, to a group B strep infection in 1996 less than a day after he was born.
I learned that group B strep is the UK’s most common cause of serious infection in newborn babies. It is the most common cause of meningitis in babies under three months, and also causes sepsis and pneumonia. It is truly shocking that on average in the United Kingdom one baby a day develops group B strep infection, one baby a week dies from group B strep infection, and one baby every two weeks survives with long-term disabilities. It is even more shocking that most group B strep infections in babies can and should be prevented. The parents of these precious babies and their wider family live with the consequences of their baby’s unnecessarily horrible illness for the rest of their lives.