Prevention of Ill Health: Government Vision

Part of Universal Credit – in the House of Commons at 5:25 pm on 5th November 2018.

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Photo of Stuart McDonald Stuart McDonald Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Immigration, Asylum and Border Control) 5:25 pm, 5th November 2018

I thank the Secretary of State for advance sight of his statement and, in particular, I welcome his determination to reduce the inappropriate and sometimes disgraceful treatment of vulnerable people with autism and learning disabilities. He says that prevention is infinitely better than cure—nobody is going to disagree with that—and that the Government are encouraging people to make better choices, which is fine. However, that will ring hollow if the Government themselves duck difficult decisions that could help citizens to make better choices; we have heard about the example of junk food advertising already, but let me touch on the issue of alcohol. If he is serious about supporting healthy choices, surely he must bring to an end the free-for-all that sees supermarkets encouraging alcohol consumption by selling it at ludicrously discounted prices. Some estimate that in the first five years a 50p minimum unit price in England could save more than 1,000 lives, reduce hospital admissions by 75,000 and cut healthcare costs by £326 million. If the Secretary of State is serious about prevention, will he support minimum pricing?

Finally, I welcome the moves in respect of the prescription of medicinal cannabis, but too few are benefiting. My constituent Caroline was given months to live after being diagnosed with a brain tumour. Those treating her link her ongoing good standard of living with her use of cannabis oil from Canada, which comes at an enormous financial cost to her and her family. However, those treating her will not prescribe cannabis oil because there is no suitable medical research on which to base such a prescription. Why not let Caroline become part of that research by prescribing medicinal cannabis to her? We can then all learn from her experience.