Can I also congratulate you on your election? You have big shoes to fill. Steve [O’Connell, former Assembly Member] was a really good champion of that part of London and I hope you enjoy it as much as Steve did over many years.
In London, around 14,000 people die every year from cancer, and you could fill Wembley Stadium twice with the number of Londoners living with cancer. Many of us know someone who has or has had cancer. This is a health issue that will affect so many of us across our lifetimes, and one important way of tackling it is through the cutting-edge research happening at places like the London Cancer Hub in Sutton.
What is more, the life sciences sector is crucial to London’s economy. Life sciences clusters like the London Cancer Hub have an important role to play in supporting London’s economic recovery from this pandemic. The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) and the Royal Marsden [Hospital] are globally renowned for their pioneering work in cancer and they rank in the top four centres for cancer research and treatment worldwide. Much of this work takes place on the London Cancer Hub site in Sutton. In my first term, I officially opened the state-of-the-art facilities there, which house precision radiotherapy technologies that can target tumours in real time, delivering radiation more accurately and reducing side-effects.
As in so many areas of our lives, the pandemic has had a terrible impact on cancer diagnosis and care and so I welcome the Government’s ambition to make the UK a life science superpower. Combatting COVID, cancer and other diseases unites us not just across the UK but globally. London is a vital part of that effort.
As a key partner in the project, I will continue to work with the London Borough of Sutton, the ICR and others like Assembly Member Garratt to help realise this world-class project, which can attract the best scientists to expand and develop world-leading cancer research. The Cancer Hub will play an integral part in London’s recovery, benefiting the London Borough of Sutton as well as supporting London’s and the UK’s position as a world-renowned place of life science excellence. I look forward to continuing our collaboration and supporting the ambitions of this project.
You have acknowledged, Mr Mayor, some of the work going on there. Just so that you are aware, the London Cancer Hub has amazing potential for life sciences, some of which you have just set out. The site already has the Royal Marsden Hospital and the ICR, plus a new acute-care hospital, which we are hoping will be coming along in the near future. In fact, the ICR discovers more new cancer drugs than any other academic centre in the world. The work they do there is quite amazing, but they are having to turn down opportunities for work and collaboration with industry because of the constraints of the site they are on. It is the London Cancer Hub plan that really unlocks that potential for new jobs as well as life-changing cancer treatments.
My question really is about the one fly in the ointment of that site, which is its poor transport links. What I would ask is whether you would commit to meeting with me, TfL and other stakeholders onsite to see the potential that is there, to understand the transport constraints that are potentially holding it back and to come up with a plan that can really make that site thrive.
Chair, there is not anything that the Assembly Member has said that I probably disagree with. On many occasions I have met not just those on the Cancer Hub site, but also those from the council who are really keen to improve transport links. There is the short, medium and long term. There is the issue of Sutton Station and Belmont Station, which has only two trains an hour, if I am right, and the bus issues. In the short term, we are consulting on the number 80 and S1 bus routes. If the Government wants to give us devolution of commuter trains, we could have a ‘metro-ised’ system of southern services. We could do a better job with TfL than Southern.
In short, I am more than happy to meet with you and others in the area, but I do not want to give a false expectation. We have put aside a significant amount of money to have a new tram, as indeed has the Council, but there is a shortfall. We have not yet negotiated a deal with the Government around TfL’s current finances and so I do not want to give false hope, but it is really important for us to work together because all of us agree that that Cancer Hub is world leading. We want to remove any obstacles to it fulfilling its potential.