Tuberculosis

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:17 pm on 7th June 2018.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Jim Fitzpatrick Jim Fitzpatrick Labour, Poplar and Limehouse 2:17 pm, 7th June 2018

I am grateful for the opportunity to make a very brief contribution to the debate. It is a pleasure to follow Victoria Prentis who made a very good contribution. There is a bit of controversy about the Government’s solution to bovine TB, but it is a very serious issue and it does need to be addressed. I congratulate Nick Herbert on securing the debate, his excellent presentation of all the facts and the sterling leadership he has given the House on this issue over a considerable period of time. It is valued and valuable, and we are grateful for the amount of time and effort he puts into it. I thank the Backbench Business Committee for affording the time for the debate.

The right hon. Gentleman, in his presentation, said that the motion succinctly outlines the main issues, so I do not see any reason for me to repeat all the messages contained in the excellent contributions we have already heard and I am sure we will hear before the close of the debate. It will suffice if I just make a few points.

TB is the world’s deadliest infection with, as we have heard, 1.7 million deaths in 2017. The WHO declared it a global health emergency in 1993 and it has not diminished since then. The UK has a very proud record. DFID should be pleased with the respect and recognition it and the UK have received for helping to address the issue across the world. World progress, however, is slow. It appears that the comparison with funding for HIV/AIDS and for malaria does not stand up to scrutiny, and I will come back to that in questions that I will pose to the Minister in due course.

If I may, however, I will stray for a moment from infectious diseases to one of the world’s other huge killers—that is, road crashes—which has an even lower profile. Annually, 1.25 million people die on the world’s roads and 20 million are seriously injured. The figures for malaria—I am not diminishing this in any way, shape or form—show that 429,000 died from malaria in 2015, which is the last year for which figures are available, and 1 million died from HIV/AIDS. There were 1.25 million deaths from road crashes. The UN and the World Health Organisation have recognised that this carnage needs to be addressed and two specific sustainable development goals address just that issue.

The United Kingdom is a world leader on safer roads. We can be of great help to many countries. The fire and rescue service and fire industry charity Fire Aid, which I chair, delivers post-crash response equipment and training to 30 countries. We are engaged with DFID and the Department for Transport and I hope that we can strengthen those links in future, because we can contribute much more to reducing these awful deaths—many are children on the way to and from school.

As I mentioned, I have just a few questions to pose to the Minister. I would be grateful if she could respond later, and if not, I would be very happy to receive correspondence in due course. First, can DFID commit to working with partners to close the TB funding gap? Secondly, will UK embassies champion TB in all high TB burden countries? Thirdly, will DFID establish a specific programme for new resources for TB, as it has for malaria and HIV/AIDS? Fourthly, will the Minister make DFID’s overall investment in HIV, TB and malaria in each of the last five years available through the devtracker website?

In conclusion, east London has been the hotspot in the UK for TB for—forever probably, but certainly in recent years. As the right hon. Member for Arundel and South Downs mentioned, the number of notifiable TB cases was 5,000 in 2017, down from 8,000 in 2011. We are going in the right direction, but people still die from TB in the UK, so it is a domestic issue as well as a global one.

I am grateful to consultant physician Dr Veronica White and her colleagues—she is a TB specialist at Barts and the Royal London NHS Trust—for all the work that they do in east London and to help the UK’s efforts, and for her briefing. I am also grateful to Alysa Remtulla from STOPAIDS and Janika Hauser from the all-party group on Global Tuberculosis for their assistance in producing briefings for all of us for this debate.

This is a hugely important issue. I echo the request to the Prime Minister—I think I signed the letter that the right hon. Member for Arundel and South Downs circulated last year—to attend the high-level global meeting. She will need relief from Brexit at some point. This would give her the perfect antidote by letting her concentrate on something on which I am sure the whole House will agree. It will give her the opportunity to take her mind off what is happening here and between us and the Commission.