21 AUG 2018

Informed consent is essential before Brexit surgery

If you were about to undergo surgery, you would expect to know what the operation involved and to be informed about all the risks and benefits. It's called informed consent and no decent surgeon would go ahead without it.

Brexit certainly is major surgery with far-reaching consequences and the government is about to proceed without informed consent.

At the time of the referendum the choice was simply to leave or to remain. The type of Brexit was not on the ballot paper, which is like a surgeon asking their patient to consent to an amputation in two years' time without either of them knowing whether this would involve a few toes or their whole leg.

Voters were assured that this would be the easiest deal in history and that the world, including the EU, would be queuing at our door to trade on our terms. There would be cake and we would be eating it, alongside every fish that swam in our waters.

In the real world, instead of a bespoke deal we are all being marched briskly to the edge of the cliff. No deal and no transition look increasingly likely to be the outcome, and is the preferred option of those MPs who have deliberately and fatally undermined the Chequers plan.

The surgery looks set to be far more radical than anything set out in the referendum and the side-effects and complications of a hard, walk-away, no-deal Brexit with no transition are very different from the promised targeted surgical excision of just the parts of the EU that the Brexiteers didn't like. Shouldn't people have an opportunity to weigh up the risks and benefits before proceeding?

Once we know the final terms there is not just an opportunity but a duty to set out the unintended consequences as well as the potential benefits. There is a compelling case for that to be followed by a people's vote: we have to make it clear to government that it should not embark on potentially ruinous surgery without the informed consent of the British people.

It might be that a majority nevertheless decide to proceed, but there is no democratic mandate for Brexit until the choice is clear and an informed decision can be made. If the hard Brexiteers are confident about their walk-away, no-deal scenario they should be happy to agree.

The polls show that public opinion is turning on Brexit, especially as the sheer scale of the cost and consequences becomes clearer.

No responsible government should countenance deliberately and knowingly inflicting such economic and social harm on its people before at least checking that is what they really wanted.

28 comments

Excuse me, but I would argue that the referendum was a democratic mandate. Only subsequently do the remainers seek to redefine the result. But I have a few questions. Words like cliff edge, disaster, and devastating are all very emotive, and feed into project fear. But what exactly do you predict, and how do you know you are correct? Two world wars were disasters. Chernobyl was a disaster, and the Asian tsunami. Venezuela’s economy is a disaster. What scale of disaster do we face? Will there be a war with Germany over Brexit? Will we see stagflation, a run on the banks, food rationing, another winter of discontent in the spring? Do you think that by spreading panic, talk of stockpiling food and medicine, supermarket shelves will be stripped in a day, you will instigate the disaster you expect, and say “told you so ?
- John Daer

I agree with John as he makes many good points. We will be leaving the EU as was voted for in the referendum. Brexit is extremely popular and there is no turn against Brexit. The economy will reach dizzying highs unknown hitherto after we leave the EU. The EU is like a niggardly old man failing but unable to accept it.
- Derek

To continue Sarah’s analogy the surgeon needs to amputate as much as possible to ensure all affected and diseased parts are removed which will encourage healthy recovery from the problems . Thus Brexit needs to be a clean break to encourage recovery of the economy and a healthy future.
- Derek

It's quite wrong of scientists and businesses to attempt to derail brexit with their demonstrations against it as a democratic vote was taken and everyone had the opportunity to vote on this matter. As the scientific community are supposedly amongst the more intellectual members of our society I would expect they have the necessary intelligence to counter any constraints they may encounter after Brexit. This similarly applies to the business community which needs to adjust in a suitable way to the future as it presents itself after Brexit has taken place.
- Derek

I run a small technology business dealing with both the UK, Europe and the US. The reality is that if I produce the right goods at the right place, it doesn’t matter whether we are in or out of the EU. Successful commercial UK companies will adapt whatever the outcome despite the scare stories – that is why they are successful. There is a bigger principle at stake here – that is democracy. You tweeted a couple of days ago about the “growing prospect of poisonous extremism in power” – I too am extremely worried about this but firmly believe this becomes even more likely when the wishes of the often silent majority are ignored as may now become the case if your way forward comes to pass. You wish for a second vote. A second vote is likely to be structured to ensure that the ‘desired’ outcome is realised. Easily done - for example, have 3 choices – Leave without deal, Leave with deal proposed or Stay in EU – hence splitting the leave vote between two options. So, if we assume voting along the lines of the original vote, an outcome of 48% vote Stay, 26% vote to accept deal and leave, 26% vote to leave without deal would have those who want to Stay proclaim they are the winners – even though 52% still voted to leave! Easily done but hardly democratic! Over half of those who voted will still have voted Leave! A further nail in the coffin for democracy driving reasonable people to vote for more extreme elements in the hope of shaking up the establishment who have failed to listen in a desperate attempt to be heard! I would class myself as a traditional Tory voter – maybe even one of the silent majority. I have voted Conservative at every general election since I was old enough to vote. It is difficult to see how the traditional Tory voter will be able to vote for you at the next General Election with your current stance. If you read this, you may see me as old and out of touch and maybe in a minority of Tory voters, but rest assured, I know exactly what I voted for with Brexit, I am not old and very much in touch with what happens in the real world. But I guess we will what happens at the next election.
- Patrick, Brixham

Absolutely right Patrick. You have absolutely made my day with your splendid comments. Democracy is already a thin veil and we do not want it becoming any thinner by ignoring a majority that voted in favour of Brexit.
- Derek

Hold the line, out is out, we need to escape the moribund megalith. It is way of achieving a European power block run (by others), to achieve control by the largest economy in Europe to ultimately ‘manage’ the smaller/weaker economies of Easter Europe. This has failed militarily twice and will succeed using the European Union as the chosen vehicle to achieve it. We should not be apart of this. Common Market, - yes, Common currency - yes, Co-operation with neighbours - yes, Handing over the keys to the Kingdom - to a third party - NEVER!
- Richard

I am amazed at the tunnel vision of people who say leaving the EU has any benefits for the UK. This nonsense about “taking back control” is just another convenient sound bite for the masses, like “strong and stable”. I’m amazed that so many people can be duped by such ridiculous, vacuous statements, without anything to back it up. Brexit is madness and Dr. Wollaston is right to demand a people’s vote. Those who rattle off another favourite sound bite that Brexit is “the will of the people” to give authority for even a no-deal forget that only 57% of those eligible to vote actually voted in the referendum. And this excludes those under 18’s not allowed to vote. So, at best Brexit is the will of some of the people, the majority of whom were duped by career politicians like Gove, Johnson and co., backed by millionaire businessmen like Farage and Banks, who stand to gain personally financially from getting the UK to leave Europe. It makes no sense to leave and, yes, it will be a disaster for this country. And how ironic that those who say “it’s democracy” don’t want the people to have the final say! I have never voted for the Conservatives, but thank goodness we have a Conservative member of Parliament willing to stand up to the Tory in-fighting on Europe that has gone on for decades and who speaks for the common sense view that we need to stop this madness. Keep going, Sarah, you have plenty of support.
- Kevin, Totnes

I absolutely support your thinking on Brexit, Sarah. Thank you, thank you, thank you! We all need to know what precisely the surgeon is removing and what we will suffer as a consequence. You are a brave woman!
- Greta Jensen

I no longer support a second vote but if there is one the question should be: 1. Should we leave the EU Yes / No 2. If we do leave would you prefer to accept the terms offered? Yes / No Voting No means you support the "No Deal" option Papers are invalidated if both questions are not answered! This will ensure that the decision to leave, or not, is still based on the majority and also gives the people the choice of supporting the negotiated agreement or a "no deal". I am not a great believer in referendums as I have less confidence in "The People's" judgement then you seem to have, but if you trust their judgement then also offer the "no deal" option!
- Mike UK

Sarah, wrong party? Your thinking is rational and clear rather than wrong-headed and driven by a narrow ideology. The Tory party is in pieces and has driven the whole Nation to this absurd historic blunder fundamentally because of internal party squabbling. The 'democratic' vote was a disgrace to the necessary, vital, complex and civilized concept of Democracy. Is this what we think we are exporting to the world? Cynical untruth's, appealing to the more base instincts, promises impossible to keep but who-cares-as-long-as-we-win (something!). Long-time Tory me, I feel sick to think I may have to align myself to this chaos.
- steveK

How right Patrick is. His company will not fall of a cliff edge. He will continue to run his business and probably run it better without interference from the overpaid bureaucrats in Brussels who delight in wasting taxpayers money to ensure they maintain their splendid life style. Out means out, hardly difficult to understand and that is what the majority of the Totnes constituency voted for. We do not need another referendum or vote to trawl through the terms and our MP should recognise that fact. World Trade terms will be perfectly satisfactory and at the same time saves a large and unnecessary Billions of pounds payment to the EU. At the same time we can get our fishing back which it is not difficult to see would be the pawn to give away in some dreadful Chequers type deal.
- Graham

I am very much one of the Silent Majority. I voted Remain and have never seen or heard anything to make me change that opinion. I can only thank Sarah not only for all the work she has done in our constituency throughout the holidays but for her wise comments and action in suggesting we think again before Brexit.
- June

"Take back control" is good. That, surely, means that the people of the country take back control and make an INFORMED decision - not that a small group of public schoolboys make our decisions for us. As David Davis has said, "A Democracy that can't change it's mind is no longer a Democracy."
- Bob

The country is not run through referenda, but by elected mp s. and the process of parliament. But parliament has seccumbed to endless in fighting and the peddling of falsehoods. Leaving without a deal would be a disaster, and should be at leadt posponed until some clarity amidst the confusion which the process has engendered has subsided. Far from being a bold decision leaving especially without a clear deal is a cowardly and misguided journey into myth and idiology, of a few not a majority in parliament. Thank goodness our MP has come to see this, and is couragious enough to say so. Let us support her!
- bernard

Dr Wolloaston has lost my confidence and my vote. Given the dreadful state of UK politics, it will hard to find someone to vote for at the next election.
- Rob J

I felt very much informed as to the risks of Brexit. Every house had one of these documents sent to it. Despite this 54% of the Constituency voted leave. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/515068/why-the-government-believes-that-voting-to-remain-in-the-european-union-is-the-best-decision-for-the-uk.pdf
- Tim Harvey

Sarah`s analogy of Informed Consent to Leaving the EU is flawed, she must know this.. At best Informed Consent gives hope, certainly not a guarantee of outcome. It`s playing with words by a Remainer who cannot accept the result of The Referendum. Staying or Leaving we don`t know the position in 5 years time, the hope is for something better outside the EU structure than inside.
- John

"Out means out" is not an argument. The Brexit issue is not a game of cricket with a winning side and a losing side which should concede graciously. I have yet to hear which specific laws from Brussels are oppressing our freedoms and will be repealed to our general benefit, or see any figures put on the financial gains which we are promised will arise from no-deal Brexit. The majority of the Leave arguments have been ill-disguised appeals to emotions. I sympathize with my fellow Britons who feel that their country has been sold from under their feet and believe that the impact of Freedom of Movement, for instance, has been ignored by those who most obviously benefit from it (employers, businesses) at the emotional expense of those who live with the effects of it, in a changed daily living-environment. But this shambolic, hard-right driven Little England crusade is cutting off our faces to spite our noses. Thanks for your Economic logic and political insight, Sarah.
- Julian

I have never voted Conservative, and the current attempt by a reckless minority of self-serving Tory MPs to promote a hard Brexit agenda, interpreting an ambiguous referendum in an uncompromising and one-sided pursuit of recreating past glories re-confirms my natural antipathy - but I WOULD vote for Sarah Wollaston, because she is not like the rest of her party. She is a courageous and independent minded voice of reason, and on this issue she is right yet again. Democracy is not a once in a lifetime snapshot of opinion on an unknown outcome; it is a process of debate and compromise, constantly taking the pulse of what is good, right and acceptable. We did not know what outcome we were being asked to accept in the referendum vote. Once we know what kind of outcome is being proposed we should be able to vote on that.
- Simon, Totnes

All these sound bites offered by politicians and grabbed by the media and the public. What is project fear and who is conducting this so called project? Perhaps we should label the Brexiteers predicted economic wonders of leaving the EU as Project Fantasy. A pro Brexit MP recently said how that when we leave the EU food prices will fall dramatically, well that depends upon our currency not suffering a further loss of value. Also how are cheap imports of food good for our farming industry and where is the added value to the economy? Is it with more households spend on even more imports?
- Nick

At the referendum we were given two options leave or remain, leave campaign telling us that we would see no difference on leaving plus the famous £350m a week going into the NHS, now the leavers all tell a very different story and we here constant doom prediction. I voted remain and have seen nothing to change my onion, but the reality is that this country has voted to leave but from what I understand we are not actually leaving or staying, this is not an outcome that either side voted for so we must have a peoples vote on whatever is agreed in the final negotiations, this must give three options. 1 Accept agreement and leave on these terms. 2. Reject agreement and leave (Hard Brexit) 3.Reject agreement and remain within the EU This is the only democratic way to proceed with this decision which will dramatically effect all our lives for years to come.
- Ray Wakelin

I was given the option of leave or remain, if the vote was to leave the Government would implement the decision. This must be done failing which we have no democracy. We have to give it a go, if we don't like it we can apply to rejoin !
- John

As a long time labour/socialist voter ( I am 86!!) ,no hope in Totnes, I can only reiterate June's comments. Sarah has bravely tried to do her best for us in this Tory Government .Thank you Sarah.If only we had LibDem government??? Devon for Europe!! Here is hopeing!
- helen lindsay

If we had a Lib Dem government as Helen suggests we would not have to worry about Brexit causing a collapse of the British economy . The Lib Dems would manage to destroy the economy with or without Brexit. We voted to leave and that's exactly what we will be doing.
- Derek

Derek [and others who still support Brexit but get angry about a Second Referendum ] , What have you got to be afraid of if we have a Second Referendum ? . Its still a Democracy if the votes are counted fairly and the question we are Voting on is answered after hearing facts . I am sure you remember that we were told by UKIP that "Turkey would join the EU by 2020 and that as many as 15 million people would leave the country for the EU in the first ten years of its membership". That and other 'untruths' have since been seen to be untruths . So in Sarah Wollastons analogy , if we in fact found that the Doctors had thought, in 2016 that a left toe on the LEFT foot was to be amputated but now in 2018 the FACT was that it was a RIGHT leg that needed to go , would you not ask for a Second opinion at the very least and then also demand that you could change your mind on the decision you made to cut of your small right toe when asked in 2016 ? If not surely you will lose both . - that sounds idiotic to me . David Davis [ an ardent Brexiteer] has said, "A Democracy that can't change it's mind is no longer a Democracy." Additionally - Another likely outcome if you dont chose to support a Second referendum is there will certainly be a General Election and then all bets are off as to our future with a Corbyn government. so cut the emotion and read the facts
- only for SW will I continue to vote Tory

Are you aware that Fishing quotas can be sold and in fact many have been to other European operators so its plain wrong to think that Brexit will return these Quotas to UK control .
- a reply to getting our fishing back

Now that everything is falling apart, it makes sense more than ever to have a final, people’s vote. That is democracy! Macron was right when he spoke out this week saying that Britain had been conned by lies into thinking it should leave the EU. All power to Sarah who is standing up for what is right and fair.
- Helen Petit

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26 FEB 2018

A Customs Union or Arrangement is in all our interests

During and after the referendum campaign I asked many people about the priorities behind their vote. The fact is that there was no one single issue. For some it was a promise on the side of a bus, for others, 'taking back control' over issues ranging from agriculture and fisheries to immigration and sovereignty. I met almost no one, then or now, who felt that we should accept being poorer as a result. As the reality hits home that the EU will reject sector by sector deals, 'the cake and eat it' approach, even if that means economic pain on both sides of the Channel, a stark choice lies ahead: Do we really want to march out through the exit door with no deal at all and with less than a year to put in place complex customs and borders arrangements? Rather than presenting a rose-tinted view, the hard Brexiteers need to level with the public on the scale of the unintended consequences. The government should not keep the economic impact analysis locked in a secret reading room accessible only to Parliamentarians but publish these so that everyone can examine the evidence.

In supporting New Clause 5, an amendment to the Trade Bill that would keep us in a form of customs union or customs arrangement after Brexit, I am not 'blocking' Brexit or 'obstructing the will of the people'. Britain is leaving the EU. This is an argument about the type of Brexit and that was not on the referendum ballot paper. The duty for MPs in carrying out the will of the people is to examine the evidence and press for the best possible Brexit, not to make their constituents poorer.

My view is that we should also opt for membership of the EEA and EFTA at least for the transition period. This would allow us to leave the Common Fisheries Policy and, like Norway, regain control over our fisheries, an issue of great importance to Brixham. But frictionless trade is also hugely important for both fishers and the processing sector, and in particular for exports to our most important markets in the EU.

Without a form of customs union or arrangement, border checks are an inconvenient inevitability. Without a customs union the current fudge over the border between North and South on the island of Ireland will inevitably become untenable. No one wants a return to the conflict of the past. The price of abandoning any kind of customs union is too high and I won't support it.

There is also a simple truth that there is no Parliamentary majority for a walk-away, no-deal Brexit. The small band of hard Brexiteer MPs need to stop throwing down red lines like spaghetti and stop threatening to remove the PM unless she bends to their will. The PM has herself spoken clearly of wanting a customs agreement with the EU and NC5 is compatible with that as it does not call for 'the' Customs Union on existing terms. My role as an MP is to read the evidence and to clearly state the case for what I believe is in the best interests of my constituency and the country even if that is sometimes wilfully misrepresented by those who simply want us to walk away, whatever the unintended consequences.

55 comments

There is a point when you need to support your party leader, not to second guess theoretical scenarios. Subverting a democratic vote makes you unfit to stand for election as 'we would not know what we were voting for'.
- John. Dartington

One of the unintended consequences could be the defeat of the Prime Minister and the election of Jeremy Corbyn- a man who has never been a fan of the EU and could create an existential threat to Parliamentary democracy. If you vote against a 3 line whip and cause the Government to be defeated I am not sure I could vote for you again.
- Andy Totnes

I wish more MPs would take a thoughtful, well reasoned and independent approach like Sarah. Keep up the great work you do for all of us.
- John Scott

As a lifelong Tory voter who is beginning to waver, I feel rather frustrated by talk of Customs Union (including Labours turnaround) and see it as a way to really keep us in the EU - out by name only as nothing changes. If this ends up in a fudge of not really being out of the EU, not being able to control our borders and not being able to negotiate our own deals I despair! Why did we bother with a referendum? Maybe it is time for older voters like myself to give up - especially with the grief given by certain members of society. The way things are going, maybe a hark back to the 1970s will shake up a few people who didn't experience it and maybe some good will come of it?
- Patrick, Brixham

Richer or poorer? The short answer is that it's really not about the money, but about restoring our sovereign right to govern ourselves. Opinions differ about the extent to which we have been ruled by people in Brussels & Strasbourg, the most authoritative being that of the House of Commons Library some years ago: according to one's interpretation, between 15% and 50% of our laws emanate from abroad - not from our Parliament... The European Parliament
- Anthony Harrison

Little or no point in your permitting comments here if one is restricted to a single cursory paragraph: my previous comment was slashed by at least 80%. Message unwelcome, perhaps...
- Anthony Harrison

Remaining members of the customs union could be the best solution for the next 3 to 10 years. We can always review this sometime in the future [but don't let the EU hear that said]. We can then deal with all the other implications of leaving the EU and put off the trading alternatives for another day. We have to achieve this without the EU bullies adding caveats such as free movement of labour, unreasonable contributions, EU laws for unrelated issues etc. It is a shame that Labour formalised this policy before Tories. The Tories have to get their act together and demonstrate a united front. The impact of having a Labour Government would do even more damage to our economy than a bad deal Brexit.
- Mike Allen

You are right to interpret what Brexit means, it was by no means clear in the referendum question and the governments interpretation of what Brexit means is just that. Only a small fraction of the population voted to be poorer the rest of us want to continue our prosperity and hand it down to our children. A hard, brutal Brexit will damage us all both economically and socially.
- Peter Sturdgess

Re the comment from Peter Sturdgess, one has heard this before. But the referendum was wholly, unambiguously clear: it was a simple binary choice between leaving the EU or staying in. And 53% of English voters (who form 85% of the UK population) voted to leave.
- Anthony Harrison

Dr Wollaston, I think "Raedwald" (excellent blogger, construction industry professional, retired to Austria) has an excellent summary today, extract: "Brussels is said to be preparing tomorrow to destroy the progress we all imagined had been secured over Christmas. They will insist we impose a hard border in Northern Ireland, and we will refuse. Their driving the UK towards either a hard exit or a Labour government, a new referendum and a reversal of Brexit is deliberate and inescapable. This is not a negotiating process designed to ensure an amicable future, but unsheathed hostility and territorial aggrandisement, meddling by power-struck fools and amateurs in Brussels with an undistinguished record of failure, conflict, death and disaster in everything they've ventured. They're gambling, and playing with peace in Northern Ireland..."
- Anthony Harrison

'Trust me, I'm a doctor', may work in the practice of medicine but is inappropriate in representative politics. Sarah's about turns do not inspire confidence, especially when supported by smoke and mirror arguements. I think she may feel more at home with the LibDems !
- John

If you vote with Labour you will at best give succour to the EU that they can strong-arm the UK into accepting a very bad deal and at worse you will bring down the Government and potentially install Corbyn and his very left wing comrades in No10. All the hard work of the last 8 years will be wasted and within a very short-time the legacy of post Thatcher liberal economic policies will be laid waste as Corbyn and MacDonnell impose their version of a socialist state on the UK. You must know that we cannot stay in the single market and we cannot stay in a customs union because if we do Brexit is meaningless. Last year another 578000 migrants settled in the UK. If we stay in the Single market we will have to accept free movement if we stay in a customs union we will be worse than Turkey. If we cannot strike our own trade agreements we may as well stay in the EU and accept humble pie. Australia, NZ, both took this step and their fortunes and people are much the better for it. Please re-consider your position and remember that the Conservative party's future depends on delivering Brexit and keeping Corbyn our of power.
- David Taylor

I didn’t vote for you but have long admired your intelligent, independent and principled representation of your constituency.
- Ben

As a Conservative voting member of this consituency I have written to Sarah several times on the subject of Brexit and as recently as yesterday. Having read her reply and blog which talks in favour of a Customs Union I get the impression that she is about to join the ranks of Corbyn and Co and vote in direct opposition to her own Government! Theresa May and our negotiating team are working hard to deliver a departure from the EU on the best possible terms and I find it staggering that they are not being either trusted or supported by one of their own Conservative Party members. While we are almost certain to end up with customs arrangements that are acceptable to both sides this is a matter for the negotiations. Voting against the Government before the negotiations have even started will hardly help our cause and through these pages I would urge Sarah to think again on this matter. Liam Fox is absolutely right to say that if the UK was to enter into a Customs Union with the EU that prevented us from doing our own trade deals it would be disastrous for our future prospects. We will in effect have given up what little influence we had in the EU and yet remain dependent on this over-centralised, bureacracy for the foreseeable future. However, if our negotiating team are able to negotiate a customs arrangement which leaves us free to do our own trade deals that is something that could actually work in the short and long term. To get such a deal of course requires Conservative MPs to get behind and support the Prime Minister and our negotiating team, rather than joining the ranks of Labour and undermining them. A majority of the British People voted to leave the EU, full stop. We did not vote to half leave and all this talk of doom and gloom after we have left is just like 'Project Fear', a lot of hot air that has very little to do with reality. At a time like this all our MPs should be supporting the Government and working in the national interest, not working with Labour to bring down the Government and ignoring what people voted for in the referendum.
- David Hoy

Thank you for your clear, rational thoughts. There is much evidence that abandoning a customs union will damage the economy for many years. Hard Brexiteers offer little of substance and much fanciful rhetoric. It is time to face reality.
- Jennifer Smith

I find Dr Wollaston's reply somewhat condescending, as though we are unaware of how Parliament works, or able to think for ourselves. There is much discussion about 'hard' and 'soft' brexit; 'soft' appears to mean capitulation to the EU. Our negotiators have behaved in a traditional British way, by listening to the other side and being prepared to compromise, where clearly they do not. It should be recognized, and often repeated, that we are one of the world's strongest economies, and are capable of trading, and prospering as an independent nation, free from the dictats of EU interference. So to vote against the government (effectively with Corbyn and Co) only strengthens the hands of the EU, who see dissent as working for them. I suggest that if Dr Wollaston does not agree with a single point, surely it would be better to abstain, rather than vote against the government? A defeat of the government would be disastrous for this nation
- Barry Day

I voted remain as I firmly believe that our future prosperity lies in close co-operation with europe. A hard brexit that takes us out of the customs union will only do us harm. Business will suffer and imports and exports will be complicated. I remember in the referendum campaign that much was made of the 'Norwegian model' in fact in 2013 Boris Johnson said he was in favour of remaining in the single market and yet we are told the the only way forward is a hard brexit. Whilst it is very touching to see so many people trusting politicians over brexit I wonder whether this is wise. Beware the loss of the regulations which keep us safe, do you really want chlorine washed chicken or beef full of antibiotics and steroids?
- Bob Bowling

The EU (of which we, the UK, are an influential part) has negotiated over 50 trade deals with other countries, entered into over 700 international treaties, set pan-continental standards from animal husbandry standards (which we are trying to improve) and aircraft safety rules to conditions of work (of which we have the lowest as a result of an opt out) and regulated the transport of nuclear material. They have also made rules that 28 sovereign nations have to operate within to achieve the most integrated free trade area in the world that collectively makes up the world's second larges economy. All this has been approved by a democratically elected parliament and approved by the 28 nation states. What's not to like?
- Simon JD

Behave yourself and fall in line behind your leader. Vote with the whip and remember why you're there - to keep our party in Government. Also, you're qualified to give medical opinions, not economic ones. As your comments show, you have not the slightest grasp of trade or economics. Best keep your nose out.
- Mark

I note your Tweets about the Prime Minister’s excellent speech earlier today and would like as one of your constituents living in Totnes to express my concern about your stated lack of confidence in the government’s and Theresa May’s approach to Brexit. I have to say too I have been most surprised over the last few years to see how your far your position has changed since appearing initially to support leaving the EU. Leaving was always going to be a hugely important change of direction and is something that every Conservative MP contemplating supporting it ought to have been thinking through thoroughly in the years preceding the referendum. Equally of course a decision to remain would have had huge ramifications for our future. No-one can fail to be aware that the EU is unstable and that changes, which would most probably have been unpalatable to the UK outside the Eurozone, would be the inevitable way forward for Brussels. So voting to remain would have been a huge leap in the dark too. Given the importance of the arguments for and against our continuing membership and the momentous opportunity that the referendum presented in terms of reassessing our relationship with Europe, I believe each of our representatives in Parliament ought to have long had a fairly settled view on the matter. (I do recall your sudden realisation that leaving the EU might hinder NHS recruitment from continental Europe. But obviously the weighing of pros and cons has to go far beyond that.) I have been strongly for leaving the EU for many years now, having become less and less happy with the diminution of democracy and the increasingly authoritarian way Brussels goes about its business. Since I took part in the original vote to join a trading block – the old EC - the whole nature of our relationship with Europe has changed, with no participation by the UK electorate in whether or not this change is acceptable. For centuries we in this country had an incredibly stable and equally a robustly responsive, democratic system. But from Maastricht onwards our politicians became more and more willing to abandon our hard won rights to citizenry participation and to parliamentary government. I read yesterday that former Prime Minister John Major recommends MPs listen to their constituents. What irony. From a man who gave so much of this away! Beware Dr Wollaston, he would prefer you hear only from those clamouring for a second referendum. From a man who in his time refused us a referendum on the grounds that decisions on vitally important matters of state should only be made by elected members of Parliament! For me, Brexiteer that I am, I can see nothing wrong with MP’s having a vote on the final Brexit deal. This is what bringing back democracy is about. I recognise and respect the view of continental Europeans that their new found stability, within the framework of the EU, is a very reassuring and positive development for them, contrasting as it does with the horrors endured so recently and so widely under both communist and fascist rule. Like many though, I fear this new found stability is extremely fragile and will prove illusory, with a European Parliament unable to exert any effective control over the Commissioners. (We had a taste of this in Greece and maybe Italy will be next?) Whatever the future holds for the EU, it has become progressively apparent it will entail a far higher degree of centralisation and bureaucratic authoritarianism than we in the UK have found acceptable over recent centuries. This cannot be the way forward for us. And this is why I voted to leave – I’m afraid all the much ridiculed clichés apply, summed up by ‘bringing back control’ - a return to democracy. (One gets the impression our friends in Europe are somewhat despairing of the messy and rather chaotic way the UK appears to be going about the leave negotiations. To my mind the last eighteen months has seen a rather wonderful reassertion of democracy and debate. Something rather alien to M. Barnier?) One of the things that I think has been extremely unhelpful from those arguing for second thoughts is the perhaps intentional impression, that there is such a thing as a ‘soft Brexit.’ Nomenclature is important. There are two sorts of Brexit - not soft or hard, but fake and real. As Mrs May has correctly put it ‘Brexit means Brexit.’ We are now getting into discussions on trade, very much the subject of Mrs May’s very good speech earlier today. Compared with ‘bringing back control’ everything else - summed up in this one word ‘trade’ - is of course detail, very important detail, complex detail, but nevertheless mere detail compared with ‘bringing back control’. I cannot agree with you Dr Wollaston in your assertion that there should be a Plan B. I would have thought seeking the right customs arrangements and all the many sectoral resolutions, in a unique deal fair to both sides, as Mrs May outlined, is the only way forward. I am sure nothing Mrs May said today will have come as a surprise to M. Barnier and his negotiators. Her objective today in publicly disclosing the UK positions was surely and simply to emphasise one thing. That our only objective is to obtain an outcome - with compromises as happens in all ‘trade’ negotiations - that is satisfactory to both parties. To think there might be a Plan B is a misunderstanding of how negotiation works. I was impressed by what was implied in the speech – that if negotiations fail there will be chaos. She was saying there must be agreement: we will have a real Brexit or as she put it originally Brexit must mean Brexit. Anything less than a real Brexit is not a soft Brexit, which is perhaps your Plan B? As I would put it, anything less than a real Brexit is a fake Brexit. Mrs May was talking tough with the EU today: we are prepared to be reasonable as you must be, there must be a good fair agreement or there will be chaos. There can be no Plan B. An unfairness inherent in this kind of conversation with you my MP and with anonymous tweeting and so on, is that you do not know me. I expect you to represent me without your knowing me. And I must feel reasonably confident you have the interests of South Devon at heart and that you know in general how we your constituents tick. Orders of magnitude worse of course, I would argue impossible, is the situation we have when those who represent us in Brussels are in Strasbourg and in any case can only advise. How much more robust when you my representative can bring down a government. I truly hope though that will not be the unintended consequence of what I can only assume is some misunderstanding on your part of the art of negotiation. Finally I really feel I cannot close without explaining something of what I am and where I am coming from. I am a retiree of some ten or so years. I started out long ago with a first degree in physical science, went into the food and drink industry, added in some environmental health and management qualifications along the way, and ended up in charge of technical development reporting to a main board director at a FTSE 100 company. In that latter capacity I spent many years negotiating with both French and US equivalents. (I always found the French obtuse in the extreme and the Americans straight, tough and very good at execution!) My take on things is that if you think you can clearly see where negotiations are currently at, then Mrs May and her team are making a poor fist of it. Be pleased that things are unclear and let that give you the confidence to support Mrs May in every possible way. Maybe accept that your expertise rests elsewhere: there is no dishonour in deference. Good luck as you wrestle with it all!
- Stephen

The UK Does Not Want A Clumsy Brexit We write as Remain voters and labour voters who have studied the Brexit options and have been persuaded to change our minds by the following positive factual arguments for Brexit and the policies of the sensible Conservative government, not least the resolute leadership that Mrs May has shown in the face of a maelstrom of abuse from the EU, MPs and chunks of the press: A - An easy decision was never to vote for, or support in any way, a hard left labour government with a Candidate PM (Corbyn) and shadow team that are so unsuitable for the job. B - The Brexit options needed more thought and analysis. The following points summarise the arguments that swayed us to a position that agrees with the policy the PM decided from the start (Lancaster House) plus the need for an implementation period: 1. Careful analysis of the financial predictions shows GDP is more affected by less immigration than any reduction in trade up to 2030! https://briefingsforbrexit.com/recent-estimates-of-the-economic-impact-of-brexit/ . The impact on jobs of indigenous workers would be small in the worst case of a WTO based deal. 2. In a restrictive customs union versus a free trade deal, the less well off in the U.K. will be disadvantaged as prices will remain higher and choice reduced; this is an established economic fact http://www.rationaloptimist.com/blog/the-EU-customs-union/ since Britain adopted free trade in the 1840s 3. If the EU wishes to establish a hard border across Ireland then they can force The Republic to do so but not Northern Ireland. A low friction solution has been shown capable of working and when smart borders are developed and applied to all U.K. borders it will probably even give the U.K. a comparative advantage as a modern free trading nation. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2018/02/24/smart-borders-brexit-will-give-britain-extra-advantage-EU-commissioned/ . A partial restrictive CU does not solve the Irish problem and a smart border will still be needed around the rest of the UK so let’s gain an advantage by developing and implementing it. 4. EU trade accounts for only 12 percent of UK GDP. Please put your focus on the other 88 percent. 5. Business is much more adaptable than you might imagine. Aerospace items are not subject to tariffs by international agreement. The car industry will rapidly source parts from the UK or with friendly trading nations. Food will be cheaper outside a customs union – it was before we joined it. Note the recent large investments made in the UK as evidence of our potential. 6. EU standards are mostly establish by international bodies and followed by the EU. In fact many EU standards in my industry (manufacturing) were modelled on existing UK standards. 7. Human/workers rights will be better protected outside the EU by our Supreme Court and the ECHR and ECtHR rather that the ECJ. 8. Voting for the Soubry amendment of the 8th Feb would commit the Government to staying in a customs union ‘with the EU in the same terms as existed before exit day’. That implies ‘the customs union’ not even ‘a customs union’. The amendment is poorly worded and against what the people voted for in the referendum and would actually hurt the UK - it is just an obvious political trap. If this became a confidence vote it could lead rapidly to a general election and possibly a Labour administration. The EU supported by the powerful remainers will then try and grind Labour down to a staying in the customs union and even the single market - this must be what the ardent remainers want, a backdoor solution to staying in. 9. If we remain in any type of customs union we will have to pay 80% of the tariffs we collect to the EU and probably part of our Vat receipts as well; this is taxation without representation and not acceptable. 10. With the recent announcements of an EU army, the Macron/Junkers ‘more EU’, including pan EU financial governance, indicate that the EU is going the wrong way. Given the lack of democracy in EU governance, imagine how the EU might struggle to survive one or two more crises with a disgruntled EU population only able to vote for every increasingly anti-EU parties. With several anti EU countries acting together it is possible to imagine a right wing takeover of the non-elected EU power base and what then? The Italian elections point to a seismic shift away from support of the EU by a founder country populated, in the main, by decent friendly people. Why would we wish to chance being involved in the unstable EU future for little or no gain? 11. Sending a message that the UK supports free trade to the world by following the current government policy would benefit both the UK and other trading partners. 12. Business directors that I know are putting more effort into a plan for limiting the damage from a Corbyn government than Brexit. Recall Mervyn King predicts Brexit to be a bump in the road not a major disaster. The points above are issues that the EU are very concerned about and wish to try and dampen any advantage the U.K. will gain from Brexit and to try and damage us where they can. The EU is obviously looking ahead to other countries exiting and trying to close down a successful exit by Britain. Imagine how Brexit looks to all the other EU peoples and businesses. We are at a critical time in the negotiation and one would expect the EU to sound hard but if we can hold our nerve (I have considerable experience of international business negotiation) we can agree a win-win deal with the EU based on free trade - we have a strong hand to play. Even in the event of a WTO based deal (‘no deal’ is not going to happen) trade will not stop. UK industry will gain from any EU imposed restrictions as more material will be made here or come from trading partners outside the EU. A clumsy Brexit based on a selective customs union will be too complex, very expensive and would likely damage the UK with no say in new EU rules and regulations. Please reconsider your view on a customs union as we believe your apparent support for the/a customs union is not in the country’s long term interest or for the Conservative party. As I now believe that only the Conservatives are capable of implementing Brexit in a positive fashion, we are considering joining and contributing to this important struggle and need convincing that our MP will support the government and the country at this important time. Will you support the government?
- Sally and James Thomas

On March 29th 2019, the UK will leave the E.U. but we will hopefully not be turning our back on Europe. For the benefit of both parties it will be very important that we continue a strong trading relationship. This has always been the UK’s strength; therefore, I am very supportive of any arrangement whereby we can continue to trade freely with our European partners. I realise this may mean some compromises on both sides but we surely want to maintain trade in as frictionless way as possible. Therefore, I personally support those (including Sarah Wollaston) who wish to encourage such a frictionless trading arrangement without jeopardising our sovereignty.
- Brian Watkin

Leave the EU. Trade is fine. No backsliding like Labour. Britain voted to trade Worldwide. No to remaining in any part of club Europe. People wishing to remain in Europe may,by Moving there. No to being ruled from Brussels.
- Derek

I would never have voted for you if I thought you would jeopardise our vote for leaving the EU. This is the second time after you initially pledged to vote with the public to leave. I didn't initially have a problem with you changing sides as this was an important decision, even though I felt it was based on you thinking this was in YOUR best interest. I am sad to see that you are doing your best to change the electorates votes and feel that a Mr Blair is paying you well.
- Jane

In your view which would be more damaging, a 'hard' Brexit, or a PM by the name of Jeremy Corbyn? Because if, down the line, you vote against a Govt. 3 line whip, the result will be Corbyn Govt.
- Tom

Sadly, after hearing Sarah on Radio 4 today, an unforseen consequence should be that she no longer represents the people of the Totnes constituency. This muddled thinking is an impediment.
- John. Dartington

It seems that your arguments are surmise. You should support Ms May so that we can negotiate from a strong and united position.
- Douglas Gunn

I voted to Leave and it was clear what that meant and I am still a Brexiteer and just hope and pray that Mrs May's "Brexit means Brexit" means just that and that she doesn't do a Dr.Wollaston type about-turn and stab the Leave voters in the back as that shows weakness not strength...I have lost faith in you Dr.Wollaston and the only way you might restore my future voting for you is for you to back your PM in pressing for us leaving the customs union and all other EU restrictions that just hold us back as a country. We are a strong country still in spite of weak politicians and politics and long may that continue but I am not sure that you should as our MP....
- Kay Tee

I wonder, will Sarah support her Government or support the Lord's amendments on Brexit. I suggest her political career depends on it !
- John

Sarah - we are now at one of the most critical times in our negotiations with the EU. In the votes that are to come in Parliament this week PLEASE get behind and support Theresa May and our negotiating team. Voting with the likes of Ken Clarke, who appears to have made it his mission to sabotage our democratically arrived at decision to leave the EU, will do our country serious damage and it could bring down the Government. As you know from my previous correspondence I feel very strongly that the referendum result must be respected by Parliament and our elected MPs. You have made your views known and I respect you for that. However, now is the time to put the needs of the country first, which means supporting the Government and our negotiating team. I am not sure I could forgive the alternative and only Corbyn and extremist parties would benefit from that . . .
- David Hoy

At the next election I hope Totnes has a candidate who does not suffer from a fluctuating conscience and will honour the commitments given to aid their election !
- John

You are doing a sterling job Sarah. I see the increasing negative impacts of a potential hard BREXIT every day in my work, with the movement of legal entities and jobs to continental Europe in anticipation of such a scenario. The people did not vote to trash our trade agreement with the EU.
- Paul

Following on from my previous comments in March I should like to express my very great concern over your lack of support for the government. The intense pressure from you and like-minded MP’s, the House of Lords and associated extremely well-funded external Remain groups, is in my view likely to lead to a very bad Brexit outcome. I think it is time you explained your role in all of this to us constituents. To use your recent words are we being “treated like fools.” --------- A lot of this pressure on the government is now verging on the unconstitutional and I agree with Frank Field that the House of Lords ought now be completely reformed – Sunday Telegraph, 17th July. I supported the recent petition that this should be debated. --------- So I am sorry I have to say it again, but I cannot understand your complete change of stance over Brexit. You have said your position has been arrived at after a very careful consideration of what you consider the most pertinent evidence. The following may seem like a cheap remarks, which is not my intention. But I am afraid it is how your stance comes across. Thus you seem to have gone from originally supporting Brexit, based at that time on presumably your best evidence based assessment, to now being in agreement with a set of evidence which leads you to risking a very unsatisfactory almost non-Brexit. This seems to demonstrate a complete lack of judgemental ability in weighing matters properly? Given you are in the eyes of most outside observers in this position, surely you should accede to the far greater weight of expertise available to the government and support their position? ---------- More generally my concern is that it is surely not for MPs to take over / pre-dictate / restrict Brexit negotiations and seemingly manipulate parliamentary procedure to that end over a ‘meaningful vote.’ This is all clearly a ruse to thwart Brexit and bind the Government’s hand. It is for the Government to negotiate what will be an international agreement, free of such restrictions. The role of Parliament is surely to accept or reject after debate, what the government has managed to obtain.
- Stephen

I have to agree with Stephen`s comments. Leaving the EU is a constitutional change and requires consent of the people, a referendum. This was done and a pledge to enact was in both Conservative and Labour manifestoes, Sarah obtained our support on this basis. If her conscience does not allow her to honour her contract with us, she should abstain from voting against her Government and resign her seat; anything less would amount to deceit and fraud.
- John

Sarah, yet again I feel compelled to write to you in connection with the elected Government's unfolding plans for Brexit. The draft EU Withdrawal Bill has been carefully formulated to translate fully into UK law EU Directives so that when we finally leave this organisation we can continue to trade on a fair and equitable basis. This should make it easier for our negotiating team to establish a new and long lasting relationship with the EU that includes for example trade, security and defence. It has nothing to do with the role of Parliament after Brexit and it is clearly the case that a substantial number of remain voting ex-MPs in the House of Lords have grossly exceeded their mandate by trying to attach a mandate to the draft EU Withdrawal Bill that would seriously undermine the Government and our negotiating team, if it was accepted by the House of Commons. This amendment CANNOT be allowed to stand as it would be immensely damaging to our country's prospects and in my view it would be a violation of our constitution. Theresa May and our negotiating team will get a new and effective deal covering our future relationship with the EU, but only if she is supported by her own party members, including and especially you. For God's sake give her and our negotiating team some much needed trust in the Commons vote that is coming later today!
- David Hoy

I believe Sarah voted against the Government today. I believe Totnes deserves a candidate they can trust, at the next General Election.
- John

Very disappointed with your inability to support the Government today, as I am sure many others will be. Sadly the logical outcome is that I can no find it in myself to continue my support for you.
- Stephen

You are a traitor. We have known that since your last-minute 'change of heart' on the referendum. So whatever good you do, we will never completely trust you. Theresa is braver, stronger, a more democratic woman, so follow her lead. Help her get us out from under the yoke of the unelected parasites in Brussels. Please.
- Jean, Totnes

Sarah, I am in my 70s and do not use twitter - a shallow medium full of ill-considered remarks. Tweets do get picked up by oldies though. Which perhaps means I am allowed some cheapskate replies? One of yours yesterday included this: “The fact is that #Brexit was sold on a false prospectus”. I assume you refer to the £350m a week message on the Boris vote leave bus. Firstly I think there is the usual patronising assumption here that anyone voting leave would take literally what was meant to be a neat and snappy slogan. But since you have got me onto it, what about those infamous parts of the other false prospectus. That on a vote to leave unemployment would rocket; George Osborne’s prediction of a £30bn black hole in public finances; the immediate emergency budget and Alistair Darling’s forecast of one emergency budget after another. This pair unlike Boris you would no doubt say are people of substance? Cheap remarks on twitter and my replies on here are demeaning. Could I suggest we play the ball and not the people.--------- Secondly you say in your recent tweet “As Parliament is not now going to have a meaningful final vote, people should be able to give their own verdict on the deal.” I was at Way with Words last night listening to David Owen who I think was already picking up on your support for a second referendum or something like it. I wish you had heard him – I really do suggest you seek out his wise counsel. Here are his words in a far from adequate nutshell.---------- There have been sharp divisions over Europe amongst senior Labour and Conservatives figures going way back. Nowadays politicians from both parties with metropolitan aspirations, many of whom commute from London in and out of their provincial constituencies, have little real empathy for the problem of local decline. Parliament prior to the EU vote largely supported EU membership, in spite of its adverse effects outside of the greater London area. Its present acceptance of EU withdrawal is therefore grudging. London’s financial dominance has further fuelled in recent decades a side-lining of the declining UK regions. Added to this is the adverse effect of European centrism. All of this has resulted in a divided populace – metropolitan London versus the rest – and an elite with no understanding of the resulting resentment of the centre and a very remote European autocracy. Over many, many years and not just amongst conservatives, the parliamentary process has failed to lance this boil. In the reluctant view of Lord Owen the only way to resolve such an impasse was to hold a referendum. He would not normally advocate such a response but believes there was no alternative as our representative political processes have failed to grasp the depth of alienation from the centre as it has developed over many years. His view is that the decision of the electorate should now be entirely respected, that the matter should now be regarded as settled. His great fear on the other hand is that it is not being respected. More than that attempts to undermine and reverse it will have terrible consequences for democracy in this country.----------- My words no doubt fail to properly summarise what he said but his concern was clear. The current gathering contempt amongst the elite for the democratic outcome of the EU referendum will fatally undermine UK democracy. Sarah, if you have not already done so, you really ought to seek out the advice of Lord Owen. His experience in European and International affairs is unrivalled. He himself has on occasions been a divisive figure but I have always respected him - conservative that I am - as deeply thoughtful, a rigorous thinker. He is an impressive person, please listen to him. Stephen
- Stephen

Sarah 14th July 2018. You know that the EU is broke. You know that they are printing billions of Euro's each and every week to keep Italy, Spain and Greece afloat without mentioning the precarious financial state of other countries. You know that the UK spends 80 Billion per annum more in Europe than they send with us. I am in full agreement with Richard Littlejohn when he writes: Independent sovereign nations do not collect taxes on behalf of foreign governments. Independent sovereign nations do not accept the jurisdiction of unelected foreign judges. Independent sovereign nations do not swallow wholesale rules made by unaccountable foreign bureaucrats. Independent sovereign nations are at liberty to conclude free trade deals with any country in the world. But if May gets her way, none of that will apply. Britain will still be subject to European directives and the rulings of European judges. That’s not Brexit by any stretch of the imagination. Kind Regards, Tim South.
- Tim South

I see that Sarah does not even bother to write this blog any more, and prefers to spout her vitriol on Twitter. Sarah does not have a Conservative bone in her body. I am assuming that steps are underway in the party to deselect her. If not, I and many other will be voting to remove her and the constituency will be lost.
- George, Paignton

David Cameron won a democratic election with a majority, a promise was made for a referendum on staying or leaving EU , a democratic vote was held , the majority of people voted leave. It is your duty and all Conservative MP’s to ensure that happens, otherwise democracy is denied and the use of our vote is pointless. I really wish we could all change our mind who we had voted for in the last General Election, you would not have had my household vote! You, Anna Soubry and the others in your nest of Vipers have weakened our Government at neogotiations throughout, you have changed your views as regular as Jeremy Corbyn, you have done this great country a very great disservice. Please either leave the Party, join Labour or join Anna Soubry in LaLa land
- Peter Mulloy

You, Anna Soubry and the rest of the nest of vipers have seriously damaged the governments hand in EU negotiations, if you do not wish to follow the people’s democratic decision or your Party, stand as an Independant, and then we then know exactly what type of person we voted for, I for one didn’t give you my vote and expect treachery , and irreparable damage to Party and Country
- Peter mulloy

"There is also a simple truth that there is no Parliamentary majority for a walk-away, no-deal Brexit." It is a "simple truth" that a majority of Tory constituencies voted Leave in the referendum, besides which 53% of those in England voted to Leave. Totnes is an odd constituency, what with the post-hippe and Green Party element with the bizarre ideas one might expect; but it is nevertheless Tory, and having lived here for over half my life it seems to me your espousal of surrendering our sovereignty to Brussels, or so tying us to EU regulation that Brexit would be meaningless, must offend a great many conservative-minded people. It will be interesting to see how your position affects the outcome of the next General Election.
- Anthony Harrison

Very proud of Sarah Wollaston for courageously making the argument for PEACE ; most people commenting negatively seem to forget that it was for PEACE ACROSS EUROPE after two World Wars that so many of our allied troops and other nationals were injured or died - over 600 US soldiers alone buried on our beaches.
- Marianne

Very proud of our courageous MP who is looking towards the future and wants to ensure a prosperous country - but above all ensure PEACE across Europe which is what our fathers and grandfathers died for in two world wars. Peace across Europe can never be taken for granted.
- Marianne

Marianne, I can assure you that our fathers and grandfathers, who died in 2 World Wars, would be appalled by the way that Sarah Wollaston has behaved of late. They valued loyalty and would have given little truck to one who had renaged on a belief after obtaining their vote on an issue. A fluctuating conscience would have been viewed with contempt, honour was everything !
- John

Marianne, our fathers and grandfathers would be appalled at Sarah Wollaston`s recent approach to the democratic referendum. Gaining a vote on an understanding, then reversing a position and voting against her Government would have been considered unacceptable. A fluctuating conscience would be given short shrift, honour was everything, resignation would be the only course !
- John

One thing that is very clear in the ongoing debate about Brexit is that there are a substantial number of MP's, including our own, that will stop at nothing to prevent what the people have voted for becoming a reality. Their consistent failure to support the Government and our own team in earlier negotiations with the EU have contributed substantially to the current impasse. I was a staunch supporter of Theresa May but I have to say that when it comes to the negotiations I tend to agree with David Davis and Boris Johnson that in an effort to show goodwill she has given away far too much up front at every stage and this is being exploited by both the EU and her many political opponents in the 'House of Cards' (Parliament). If she is able to secure a fair trade deal in these negotiations at all it will be in spite of some of her colleagues in Parliament and not because of them. The Conservative Party is now in the 'Last Chance Saloon' as far as many voters are concerned. Like me they are watching every unfolding development closely and our views will be expressed at the ballot box unless the referendum result is properly respected.
- David H, Brixham

One thing that is very clear in the ongoing debate about Brexit is that there are a substantial number of MP's, including our own, that will stop at nothing to prevent what the people have voted for becoming a reality. Their consistent failure to support the Government and our own team in earlier negotiations with the EU have contributed substantially to the current impasse. I was a staunch supporter of Theresa May but I have to say that when it comes to the negotiations I tend to agree with David Davis and Boris Johnson that in an effort to show goodwill she has given away far too much up front at every stage and this is being exploited by both the EU and her many political opponents in the 'House of Cards' (Parliament). If she is able to secure a fair trade deal in these negotiations at all it will be in spite of some of her colleagues in Parliament and not because of them. The Conservative Party is now in the 'Last Chance Saloon' as far as many voters are concerned. Like me they are watching every unfolding development closely and our views will be expressed at the ballot box unless the referendum result is properly respected.
- David H, Brixham

Marianne, our fathers and grandfathers would be appalled at Sarah Wollaston`s recent approach to the democratic referendum. Gaining a vote on an understanding, then reversing a position and voting against her Government would have been considered unacceptable. A fluctuating conscience would be given short shrift, honour was everything, resignation would be the only course !
- John

Who cares whether there is a Parliamentary majority? We knew Parliament had a majority of Remainers before the referendum. Parliament gave the Brexit decision to the people, and they chose to leave, not join a half-membership EEA where we'd still be under EU rules and law. You're trying to overturn the result of the referendum, not "respect" it as you claim. You might at least be honest about it
- Ron

To quote Ed Balls: "It is dangerous to start with the assumption that voters are wrong". The people that voted to leave in the referendum did so for many reasons but don't assume that they are not prepared to put up with some hardship or turmoil to achieve the objective of leaving. As our MP, it is your duty to do everything possible to achieve what the majority voted for in the referendum, not to second guess what they "might have meant" or "didn't really mean". Please support everything you can to get us out of the EU, hopefully with a deal if possible but without, if necessary.
- Tim Mattocks

Watched my MP on TV quite a few times lately. My opinion, She is more interested in point scoring with her leader and bettering her own standing than she is in what we vote for. The Disgrace of closing our's and other Local hospitals in readiness of privatising the NHS, and the deceit This May led government is showing towards Brexit and our democratic vote. Is Shameful, or should that be SHAMELESS. I have always voted Conservative and have never regretted it in the past. NOT SO NOW!, I am appalled at the way this country is being led by this government, and will NOT vote for any further May led government and a party so disrespectful of democracy and what the electorate clearly want
- Bruce Dartmouth

Great News of the week, traitor Sarah Woolaston has warned publicly if Boris top ples Mrs May she would resign from the party.. Go for it Boris
- Pat Brodie

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11 JAN 2018

Political courage is required and determination to properly fund the NHS and Social Care

Below is an article I wrote for the Financial Times

There is nothing new about winter pressures in the NHS. What has changed is that those pressures have become relentless, extending year round into traditionally quieter months but deepening in intensity over the winter. The current crisis is not simply caused by the number of people turning up to A&E but because those who do are far more unwell and many more need admission. With hospital bed occupancy already running at unsustainably high levels and a growing shortfall in community beds and workforce, the health and care system can rapidly become overwhelmed. An upswing in norovirus and flu over the past fortnight seems to have been the final straw. NHS England had little choice but to implement its emergency plan to ease the acute pressure by cancelling routine surgery until the end of January. Unless we address the underlying issues across both health and social care this will however become the norm for every winter. Beyond that the unsustainable pressures will result in a collapse in routine waiting time standards.

Increasing life expectancy is one of the greatest successes of our age, but as we live longer and with more complex conditions, health funding has lagged behind. There has been an abject failure on the part of successive governments to plan for the sheer scale of the long term demand and costs associated with demographic change and for the change required to integrate of health and social care,

The House of Lords Select Committee set up to examine the long term sustainability of the NHS rapidly concluded that it could not do so without including social care. The government needs to take note before repeating the mistakes of the past. A green paper that looks solely at long term funding for social care will miss the point that these two systems cannot be considered in isolation from each other. Neither should anyone underestimate the challenge of delivering policy change in a hung Parliament or under a government whose energy is so consumed by Brexit.

There is a way forward but it will take political courage from both front benches and genuine willingness to put the public interest first. Before Christmas, 90 backbenchers from across both sides of the House of Commons, wrote to the Prime Minister urging a cross Party whole-system approach to the challenges and funding of the NHS, social care and public health. Select Committees could also play a role to help to build on existing work and set out the options for the public. Theresa May's former Chief of Staff has advocated a Royal Commission but we do not have the luxury of time to kick this important issue into such long grass.

Many of the options have already been described, for example by the Barker Commission and recent House of Lords inquiry. The reality is that we will all need to be prepared to contribute more if we want the NHS to remain a universal service, free at the point of delivery and meeting our needs both now as well as in the future. This cannot in my view fall entirely on working age employed adults but also needs to consider inter-generational fairness, wealth and contributions from those who are self employed. As graduates struggle with student loans it would be unfair to expect them also to shoulder the increasing costs of health and care for those in retirement irrespective of their wealth. We could look at ideas for a hypothecated health and care tax for example paid by those over forty and with income from any source above a set threshold. Some advocate introducing charging and top ups but these bring higher transaction costs and widen health inequality. The point is that all these options should be clearly set out alongside the consequences of a failure to invest more in the NHS, care, public health and prevention.

Since 2010, total health spending has risen by an average of just over 1% per year. This is far lower than the long term average increase of around 4% and comes at a time of extraordinary rise in demand and the costs of drugs and technologies. Real terms cuts to social care have added to the strains.

It is time to stop viewing health as a bottomless pit but rather as one of our greatest successes and make increasing investment a source of national pride. I cannot think of a better way for Theresa May to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the NHS than by helping to make sure that it has a sustainable long term future.

8 comments

Not being a supporter of your government and a reader of many of your posts I have come to the conclusion you are in the wrong political party. Why, you yourself must realise the Tory party will never promote a system which benefits the many and not the few. Perhaps if your government went after the multi nationals that avoid paying tax in the U.K. We would have a fully funded NHS. Cheers.
- Peter Gunn

You're an excellent advocate for health and social care, and have long recognised that matters cannot remain as they are. I wish you were Secretary of State for Health, even though I wish the Conservatives were not in government. Political parties have studiously avoided the discussion and debate which is now so pressing and necessary. Surely, the UK should benchmark its standards and funding against the best providers in Europe and elsewhere, determine the standards that it should deliver, and develop the best funding model. You are so right about another Commission - that simply kicks the can down the road. As the Barker Commission commented, hard choices need to be made about tax and public funding. A political agenda to shrink the state to unsustainable levels runs contrary to the vital needs of health and social care, and the viability of public services. As a fortunate pensioner, I recognise that my generation should be contributing more, not least because we can afford it, so I support the idea of a health and social tax on the over 40s. More generally, regardless of the arguments against hypothecation, the concept will have public support because people are prepared to pay more if they believe the funds will be ring-fenced to support health and social care. I worry that Brexit can only make matters worse, in all the obvious ways, but also in the emerging decline of tolerance and compassion. You can make a real difference, and you are doing so. We need long term sustainable funding supporting a long term plan, and to the maximum extent practicable, a de-politicisation of these vital services. History is littered with the errors of successive governments in this arena, not least with constant restrucuring and the disastrous PFI initiative. There are many tough questions around funding, taxation, what should be free at the point of deilvery, and all kinds of bioethical dilemmas. But the nation cannot sit on its hands for any longer. The threat to your party is that the NHS/social care may bring down the government while it obsesses about fantastical solutions for Brexit, when it could have elected to remain in single market within the EEA. You're doing a great job, Sarah: please stay on the case, and let the public know what we can do to support you.
- Adrian Baskerville

I agree with the comment above in that we should chase multi nationals and other tax avoiders.We should also greatly increase fuel duty as many health problems exist or are exasperated by pollution expecially pollution from diesel vehicles. Of course people do not help themselves in this respect as they can often be seen driving round and round in circles in Kingsbridge because they are too tight to pay for parking.They would also improve their health if they were to walk more often. The point being that people often do not take responsibility for their own health and therefore I do not think they should be entitled to free health care and should pay for use which would encourage many to take better care of themselves and avoid drinking like fish and smoking like chimneys. There are also many procedures available on the NHS which should not be as this was not the intentions when this institute was first founded. Finally just to calm the doomsayers, Brexit will not make any difference to the NHS or any other aspects of living in UK and will only improve matters. Oh also Sarah Wollaston's comment suggesting that living longer is something positive is subject to one's perspective and not something I would agree with.
- Derek

I believe the NHS is struggling because it undertakes procedures that should not be freely available and the sooner everybody and the government accepts this the better. There could then be more money available for procedures and treatments that truly related to one's immediate health. I do however believe the time has come to consider charging patients for their treatment. This would enthuse people to take better care of themselves as we are all aware of the need for improvement in our diets and the need to abstain from intoxicating liquor. It has recently been reported that the British eat the most processed foods and salty snacks of anywhere in Europe. Terrible diets. Cutting back on pollution from too many vehicles would also help by improving health and therefore reducing the burden upon the NHS. I do also have difficulties in regard to people suing the NHS. This gives me many sleepless nights as I cannot feel comfortable with someone suing a service that is essentially free and by suing only creates a greater burden upon the NHS. I myself have had a couple of procedures done under the NHS which have not been altogether successful, far from it,but to sue the NHS for this poor treatment I received, well I couldn't.
- Derek

With you on this one Sarah. Keep up the good work. This issue is of much greater importance to we Baby Boomers than Brexit, so please remind Mrs May of this fact. Do you have Jeremy Corbyn's phone number by any chance..?
- Roger Westlake

Surely it is time we change our political rivalries to one about our collective community in the same way of Denmark and the Scandinavian countries. That means us accepting higher taxes in return for guaranteed access to free healthcare, welfare, social services and education for all.
- John Lloyd

Mr Gunn’s comment is interesting I was about to add having just read CityAm that you sound like a socialist not a conservative. Frankly if you don’t support lower taxes, free markets and less government intervention you really are not a Tory. The NHS and social care need reform and desperately so but all you politicians think of is taxing us more! The wealthy already pay a disproportionate amount of tax as you surely know. It’s a blunt and retrograde instrument that has never worked and never will this has been proved so many times. You talk in your brexit blog about reading facts but conveniently ignore them in this issue. Free at the point of use for all is exactly part of the problem. Rich people and even middle class with insurance simply do not need free healthcare. This is a fundamental issue with the system in the same way they don’t need free bus passes etc and winter fuel allowances. I’m sure as a doctor you mean well being concerned with wellbeing but you’re applying the wrong logic and thus wrong solution. You must also be able to see the waste and inefficiency in the nhs? Come on Sarah time to be a real conservative! Real care for those in need is not throwing money at it!
- jeremy williams

The only 'customs arrangement' Brussels would accept involves accepting ECJ law, which isn't what we voted for.
- EP

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07 JAN 2018

NHS Funding

Below is an article that I wrote for the Sunday Express

There is nothing new about winter pressures in the NHS. What has changed is that those pressures are now year round but in winter the crisis is far deeper.

NHS England has put in place a plan to deal with this by cancelling routine surgery, but this will not feel 'routine' for those in pain awaiting a hip replacement for example. I understand the need to focus here and now on emergencies but we should not have to accept that cancelling this kind of life-changing surgery becomes the accepted annual response to winter.

The causes of these pressures are well known. It is of course great news we are living longer but as we do so we are living with far more complex long term conditions and the cost of treatment and technologies continues to rise faster than increases to the NHS budget. NHS staff have done an heroic job but they and the whole health and care system are stretched to the limit as they cope with far more people who are seriously unwell.

We cannot continue to provide the service we all expect on current finances, staffing and infrastructure. It is time for an urgent review to find the funding that both the NHS and social care need in order to make it happen.

We also need to end the culture of short termism and look not just at the here and now, but plan properly for the future and look at health, social care and public health together.

The public are being let down by a political failure over past decades to plan ahead, to be honest about the scale of the challenge and to work across Party lines to find a fair solution.

Before Christmas 90 back bench MPs from across political parties tried to change this, we wrote to the Prime Minister calling for this approach. Likewise in my role chairing the committee that calls the PM to give evidence, I told Theresa May that Select Committees (which work across Party political lines), stood ready to help. The fact is that no Party has a monopoly on good ideas on how this funding could be achieved and in a hung Parliament it needs cross Party working to get change such as this across the line.

No one wants to have to fork out but the truth is that we need to be prepared to pay more to support health and care services or services will decline. There are serious questions about whether it is fair for this to fall entirely on those of working age through taxes. My personal view is that it is not and that we should look at how it could be shared fairly across generations.

I know many people argue it is time to introduce charges to the NHS but this risks widening inequalities and also introduces costs and bureaucracy associated with collecting these relatively small payments. I know, as a former GP, that many of my sickest patients struggling on low incomes would have delayed coming to see me had there been a charge. This can end up not only with worse consequences for health but costing the NHS more in the long run. I also feel strongly that charging for appointments would go against one of the great founding principles of our NHS, that it is free at the point of need. It's what makes our system the fairest in the world and we should beware undermining that.

I believe the best way forward is stick with our tax and National Insurance based system as the core funding but look again at how National Insurance is collected and from whom so it can became dedicated to funding the NHS and social care.

It is time for an NHS and care convention to explore all the funding options and explain these clearly to the public and to look again at the options for sharing the costs of social care so that we no longer have the awful care costs lottery of one in ten people over 65 facing catastrophic costs.

A convention should not ignore the ongoing need to reduce waste in our NHS and I hear many examples of this in my work as chair of the Health Select Committee. Making sure that all areas learn from the best performing Trusts for example. Progress is being made in many areas already, for example driving down the huge variation in the amount the NHS pays for identical products. We also have to go further on prevention. Anyone who has spent time in an emergency department on a Friday or Saturday night will know how much drunkenness adds to the workload and avoidably ramps up waiting times.

It's easy to focus on the negative stories but the fact remains that our NHS and is doing a remarkable job and in its 70th year we should should celebrate it's successes and grasp the opportunity to make sure that it can not just survive but thrive. Rather than seeing health and care spending as a 'bottomless pit' we should view funding these properly as a source of national pride. These discussions have now become a national emergency and its time to ditch the Party politicical bickering and make it happen for the whole system our NHS, social care and public health.

4 comments

We need to end internal markets between primary & secondary health, between Community
- Debra Woodhall-James

You can have a good cheap job but it will be slow You can have a fast cheap job but it will be poor quality You can have a good fast job but it will be expensive Whichever way you slice it, this is the reality of life. If we want a good NHS which delivers promptly we will need to pay for it.
- Bob Bowling

It's time to charge for the use of NHS to encourage people to improve their health themselves where they are able to. Increased costs are generally attributable to a decline in personal care and the consumption of huge quantities of fatty foods and sugary drinks. Say it as it is. If someone choses to continue to eat junk which is detrimental to their health I see no reason why I nor any other person should then contribute towards the cost of their medical needs. The main area where the government can raise further funds via national insurance,if this is the route upon which they wish to continue,would be to collect national insurance on one's entire earnings instead of having a cut off point as at present.
- Derek

I generally agree with your points, but you repeat a common statement that "extra costs will fall on people of working age through taxes". I am retired but I still pay tax. Many people on low wages and benefits do not pay tax, so "working age" is very misleading. I agree that extra money could be raised through the NI, which is now just another general tax, but this would be an extra burden on employers, many of whom struggle with such overheads. Maybe the better way is to merge NI into income tax and then fund NHS from the pool, then anyone who earns enough to pay tax will contribute. As for change, what other organisation is based on a business model created 70 years go and never changed?
- S Morrissey

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14 DEC 2017

Why Parliament Voted to Take Back Control

This week I voted for an amendment to the European Union Withdrawal Bill because it was necessary to guarantee that there can be Parliamentary scrutiny and sovereignty as we return control of our laws from Brussels. There have been strong opinions on both sides of the argument about this, and even suggestions that by backing this amendment I have somehow blocked Brexit, or increased the likelihood of another election. This is not true. I respect the referendum result and voted to trigger Article 50. We are leaving the European Union but need to do so in a way that leads to as few unintended consequences as possible.

In returning powers from Brussels we must not exchange one system with poor democratic oversight for another. As we take back control of our laws, Parliament has an important role to play in scrutinising the government's work. Both in my role as Chair of the Health Committee and as a Constituency MP it is my duty to be look closely at both the pitfalls and opportunities of the various options for the type of Brexit ahead.

Clause 9, which I and colleagues voted to amend, had such far reaching consequences that I have copied it verbatim below:

A Minister of the Crown may by regulations make such provision as the Minister considers appropriate for the purposes of implementing the withdrawal agreement if the Minister considers that such provision should be in force on or before exit day.

If left unamended, this clause would have been incompatible with the Prime Minister's pledge to give Parliament a 'meaningful vote' on the deal. In effect, it allowed Ministers to make changes to laws with no democratic check by Parliament. Its breadth even concerned Brexiteers like Jacob Rees-Mogg, who said during the debate, "clause 9 gives some powers that trouble even Eurosceptics. I have never felt comfortable with the self-amending part of the Bill."

I and my colleagues had made our concerns clear to government for many weeks ahead of the vote and we feel that this vote was entirely avoidable. The clause should have been removed and the government could easily have done so. This would have avoided the need for an amendment.

Far from obstructing Brexit, this vote strengthened its democratic underpinnings, preventing major constitutional change from potentially being pushed through purely by ministerial decree.

I have been dismayed with how irresponsibly my vote has been misrepresented in some parts of the press. I welcome robust debate and I am always willing to listen and to defend what I believe. Labelling MPs 'traitors' for defending a fundamental democratic principle or judges 'enemies of the people' for upholding the law, just fuels a hateful division. It also entirely misrepresents why I voted as I did and why I felt it was necessary.

As we build an independent Britain – we will need to work constructively with our European neighbours. The more I hear, during Select committee hearings, about the consequences that would arise from a disruptive and chaotic Brexit, the more I feel that we must try to achieve a soft landing. The consequences of no deal and no transition would be very serious indeed.

43 comments

Thank you for having the courage and conviction to vote for this amendment. The brexiteers become more extreme in their views and actions and any who disagree are portrayed as disloyal or treacherous. They must be countered by sound, logical argument by people like you to ensure that when we leave the EU, we do so on a sound and reasonable basis and do not just crash out. Thank you.
- Kevin Gleeson

" The consequences of no deal and no transition would be very serious indeed." IN YOUR OPINION
- mike

What rubbish - thoroughly disenchanted with our elected 'Representative'. Again.
- Hugh Welbourn

It’s about getting us ‘out of the eu’ but actually sliding back in by the backdoor. Which is actually worse than leaving in the first place. Still in the customs union, still in the single market, still got free movement with no say. I’m afraid our representative and the majority of parliament think we’re all a bit thick and not capable of making the right choice. They hold us in contempt. It’s not just here, the political elite in Europe hold their citizens with contempt also, hence the rise of far right parties in Europe. I’m sure the vast majority wouldn’t vote this way, but hey!! If they won’t listen. What an awful choice we’re left with
- John

Thank you for supporting the amendment to the Withdrawal Bill. The British public voted for powers to be 'returned to Parliament' not tranferred to individual Ministers enabling them to pass laws without scrutiny
- Steph Crutchley

You are put in Parliament by the people to represent OUR views NOT yours. Nothing in the above shows any sign of listening to US the people you are meant to represent . You are ONLY there because WE elect you. You are also part of a party and should also remember that . What you have done is a possible back door into a Marxist government that would destroy this country possibly forever and you should have the intelligence to realise this . The people voted for Brexit and just want to get on with it . Businesses need to see clear water ahead , what you have done and your arrogant lot is set this back. We the people who you claim to represent have had enough.
- Anne Swabey

Parliament gave the people the right to decide on brexit. We did and with a larger % turnout than for the recent election, so which is therefore more democratic? If you support democracy then the people must be obeyed not some false idea of the less democratic members of parliament!
- adrian lewis

Directed here by my email to you where I spoke of understanding your concerns re Clause 9, I now fear, having read your explanation, my sympathy was misplaced. The people of the UK, who you (the collective you) represent, voted to leave... that has to be at the forefront as to what type of Brexit you feel is best going forward. In an age when the population have never been better informed through MSM and social media, I still find it gulling how politicians continue to act as if they know best. And simply quoting Jacob Rees-Mogg as being concerned, yet not adding why he still felt inclined to support the Bill is disingenuous to say the least.
- Stuart Price

2nd paragraph of your "Blog" quote "as a Constituency MP it is my duty to look at both the pitfalls and various options for the type of Bexit ahead" Surely therefore it was your duty to "look at pitfalls,facts options etc etc etc" before becoming a Leaver, and then changing to Remainer, why the change? People of the UK voted to leave in a Democratically held Referendum , including 54% of your constituents, we entrusted the Conservative Party to honour that and get on with it, Teresa May is doing just that ,despite various factions holding her to ransom at every turn, this will only get worse coming back to Parliament with the opposition, SNP DUP various gangs of 12 who really can't accept Democracy. Your action has only strengthened Corbyn and his Marxist party, Teresa May deserves better, I feel totally let down, by your actions.
- Peter Mulloy

However well intended, a very poor decision and one which will risk further undermining our negotiating position at potentially great cost to our country. The opposition will doubtless be pleased with your conduct but I am very disappointed although, regrettably, not surprised.
- Brian Kelly

Absolutely shocked and disgusted that our local MP should be so treacherous towards the Prime Minister and to the majority of her constituents. I believe that she should be de-selected and an honourable replacement be put forward. I personally will not support her in any shape or form in the future.
- Mary Bell

Cannot but help agreeing with the post above from Mary Bell.
- bryan boswall

Those Conservative MPs who voted against the government cannot duck the self indulgent disloyalty they have demonstrated. Disloyalty to the PM, their Party and the majority of the electorate who voted to leave. Even the leaders of the EU acknowledge that this defeat weakens the government's negotiating position and increase the chance of a "no deal" exit. This, coupled with the gift handed to those who seek a Marxist government, does not bode well for the future. What is done is done but let us all hope that this mistake will not be repeated in the coming weeks and months.
- Anthony Croke

Well done, it takes courage. Go and get yourself a glass of white wine!!
- David Lavender

my comments re the same as Mary Bell de-selected or better resignation after letting us down
- jim davis

You were a Leaver first and changed - not good, you can't be trusted with our vote. I agree with the above people, let PM get on with her job with help from her party. This is not good for other countries looking in on us. This is not a well done to you but maybe 'sheep' is more like it!!
- Penny Davis

David Lavender how flippant, and pathetic are your comments. It therefore means that except for 12 Conservative MPs, the rest of her colleagues have no courage, and according to Sarah's blog they are the only ones who see the real dangers, they cannot trust the Prime Minister, her Ministers and elected Conservative MP's to get the best deal possible for leaving the EU, how insulting to those people. Arrogance at its peak, maybe the medical term could be the Anna Soubry Complex.
- peter mulloy

Steph Crutchley's post shows that she and Sarah Woolaston doesn't see the simplicity of how a Gov should work. The electorate elect , this is a show our trust, if that trust is broken then we elect some other party . By removing powers from the Cabinet the Rebels are frustrating the will of the people. I am surprised at Moog's comments quoted, Govs need to be able to get stuff done with out too much fuss. The EU now are saying that the the Article 50 period of 2 years can be extended I am afraid that if this goes on into a Labour Gov's term then Brexit will not get done which would be a disaster . The 12 Rebels have no business experience or Trade understanding . Not one of them was seen in the Pre referendum Trade select committee meeting with Professor Mindford that you can watch on Youtube. Nadhim Zahawi was there , he was at that time a remainer after that meeting he changed to a Leaver. There are very few excellent MPs that serve as they should as a conduit for the peoples will. Remainers should respect the 1st past the post system we have , they may also like to study this site , we should never have been considered part of the EU ! http://www.vernoncoleman ( dot com ) /euillegally.html
- Bill Davies

Sorry but I totally agree with Bill Davies comments, the thorn in the side of the Tories, of which I an one, will rumble on forever until it is totally removed.
- David Jennings

You say you are proud to have voted the way you did. What have you got to be proud off, causing more division in the country than there alredy is humiliating us as a country and your leader. Proud is not a proper way to justify what you did. You are a flip flopper anyway and should apologise or even better resign for your inconsistent views. How are we supposed to vote for you when you change your mind regularly. we vote for what you tell us you stand for, not for you to change you views.I'm not proud to have you as my MP when you embarres us on a world stage and belittle our standing in the world. Shame on you and your hypocracy..
- John shields

My husband and I agree with the majority of the above. My husband is of Italian origin and his relatives in Italy are on a three day week with a crippled economy caused by membership of the EU. They would also like to leave the broken EU. Your post contains I think I feel - you are in Parliament only by the will of the people to carry out the will of the people. You have failed in your duty and you have failed Theresa May. We will not support you by voting for you in this constituency again.
- Sharon Carrino

"Et tu, Brute....Knifed in the back, by one who I thought I could trust. I feel your actions and those of your fellow rebels have put OUR Prime Minister in a very difficult position to be able to negotiate a fair Brexit. Do you realise that you have jeopardised the entire future of The United Kingdom, on what terms it leaves the EU and where it will stand in the world, in the future? You really should be ashamed of yourself. Robert Summers Chairman of Wellswood Conservatives Torbay
- Robert Summers

So you have humiliated your PM,weakened the UK’s negotiating position,given encouragement to Juncker and Barnier,made the prospect of a Brexit deal even more difficult ,emboldened the Marxists and betrayed the electorate.Yet you claim on Twitter that you are proud of your achievement.If you are,then you are occupying a seat on the wrong benches in the Commons.
- MichaelR

I would urge those commenting above to take the time to read the text of the EU withdrawal Bill as proposed by the government. We are all agreed that we will leave the EU, but the Bill gives the government powers to amend any current UK legislation which originates from the EU in any way it sees fit - without having to seek parliament's approval first. This could have far reaching consequences for our personal lives and businesses - it includes legislation that covers maternity rights, our rights to keep our personal information confidential, environmental regulations.... Normally the government has to seek parliament's approval to fundamental changes to UK legislation. Why should changes to our statutes as a result of Brexit be treated any differently? Thank you, Sarah for voting for proper parliamentary scrutiny. Had the government dealt with these issues properly in the first draft of the Bill, the Brexit process would not have been held up.
- Sara Chisholm

Most of the people here who attack you do not understand the function either of our representative democracy or of the European Union. I support your action, and hope that you will continue to follow your conscience in voting for the good of your country. Thank you!
- Dr Robert Lawson-Peebles

Despite your excuses, you are a remainer as are all the other so called rebels and you clearly do not trust our Prime Minister, your leader who promised you all a vote. we need to look for another candidate to represent us, someone who knows what they feel on these issues not a last minute mind changer or turncoat.
- John Butler

It means taking our powers back when we get out of europe, then out parliament can bring in any laws they wish. You ae educated but have no sense or understanding of the matter. Watch question time from last Thursday where a man in the audience told you remainers the truth. The referendum was of the whole UK not constituency. You should be ashamed and as for courage, that does not come into it The country voted OUT so lets get out. You are a traitor
- Ken Lakin

What nonsense people write in relation to the nature of this very sensible amendment. I applaud Sarah for backing the amendment and also for making the very good point she does over clause 9. It could easily have been taken out, had the Government done so, there would not have been the degree of unrest over the potential consequences. It is ridiculous how these amendments have been taken out of context, they are not a 'sabotage Brexit' mechanism, merely an entirely sensible airing of concerns from many sides aimed at ensuring the legislation is properly scrutinized, why on earth wouldn't we want this on something as important as the Brexit deal? The government created a great deal of suspicion by virtue of its refusal to take out clause 9. People voted for Brexit and 'taking back control'. That's still what you end up with, law in this Country is subject to Parliamentary approval and scrutiny, that is how our system operates; Brexit changes nothing as to how we implement our own laws. Clause 9 however allows a 'Minister of the Crown' to draw up regulations, that would mean no scrutiny whatsoever; that can never be right in the way we legislate. Regulations are not the same as an enactment, clause 9 allows a single minister to implement secondary non debated legislation; that can never be right for something as important as this. "A Minister of the Crown may by regulations make such provision as the Minister considers appropriate for the purposes of implementing the withdrawal agreement if the Minister considers that such provision should be in force on or before exit day. " Like it or not, Theresa May does not have a strong negotiating hand, she lost her majority at the last election; this places an even greater duty upon Parliament to scrutinize the laws she she is proposing. This was an entirely sensible call by a responsible constituent MP acting in the interests of those in her locality, that includes those who voted for leave or remain.
- Nick Dilworth

Sarah is one of the few MPs who shows she reads her brief. What is forgotten is the referendum in 2016 was advisory but to see the reaction of politicians afterward they had clearly forgotten this. Parliament needed to formally vote to accept the result and then put in place withdrawal. That would have been sensible and surely within the Ken of our representatives. But what we have seen for the last eighteen months is incoherent lurching through one badly-drafted proposal to another. This is government by the seat of the pants and it isn't working. So when one of our representatives actually reads her brief to understand it she should be applauded. Not condemned and threatened with deselection. There is too much at stake for ill tempered lobs across the barricades. Leave that to the press.
- Helen Darch

She is a Remainer and a Traitor, 1 of the other 11 Heidi Allen has been hauled to a party meeting in South Cambs to face a de-selection battle this should be happening in Torbay. I will not vote for Sarah Woolaston again if she is still standing at the next election. Come on Sarah be honest about your intentions, instead of all these excuses
- Pat Brodie

What a lot of nonsense posted here. The passing of this amendment has placed the power to decide whether the brexit deal is acceptable or not firmly where it belongs. Parliament is the sovereign body, not the cabinet, the government or a handful of ministers. One of the planks of the leave campaign was to return power to parliament. To talk of treachery or deselection is just ridiculous.
- Bob Bowling

I agree entirely with Bob Bowling. Sarah Wollaston has acted perfectly correctly, according to her conscience, and posters like Pat Brodie who use such inflammatory language as "Traitor" should remember where such language leads.
- Dr Robert Lawson-Peebles

Many of the people on this message board are not from Totnes and don't seem to understand our constituency, Sarah is our representative and has always voted on issues for what she thinks is right rather than always follow the party line. As she achieved more than half the entire vote for Totnes and has been re-elected twice with a larger vote each time I'd say she's pretty popular. So please stop all this name calling and let our representative represent us in the way she has always done. This is a democracy and if you don't like it then simply vote her out when the next election comes. Intimidation has no place in anything other than a dictatorship.
- Jon Merriott

…sorry but I’m struggling to follow the logic here. These sanctimonious rebel MP’s (who all voted to remain in the EU) are now talking in dewy eyed terms about the sanctity of the UK parliament and democratic process, yet they were only too happy at the referendum to undermine our parliament in favour of the much more undemocratic EU. It seems that they only see the benefits of our democracy when it suits their objectives which seems to be either to stop, frustrate or soften BREXIT
- Mark A

Clause 9 is badly phrased, as it implies that a single Minister may change whatever he/she wishes without reference to Parliament. But we all know that this is nonsense, and Parliament could force a debate, and hence refusal, or amendment to the Minister's wishes. What I am dismayed about the most is that many people refuse to accept the referendum result; they should stop moaning, and set out to achieve a successful Brexit. The greatest danger by 'the rebels' is that they are encouraging Corbyn and Co to believe that they will form the next Government. Heaven help us, should that be the case!
- Barry Day

I don't just disagree with our MP on this. I am amazed by her lack of judgement and wit. The highlight above was where she acknowledge that the EU membership she urged us to vote for "lacked democratic oversight". She refers to "building an independent Britain". Surely any Tory MP urging Remain as she did (eventually) would have argued that we were ALREADY independent. Otherwise wasn't she therefore arguing for the British people to vote against their own independence? She sits in Parliament with that group of the most ardent Europhiliacs, federalists and remainers. When she railed on Twitter for months against Juncker, Brussels and the whole EU kleptocracy. Really? Judgement? I am sure Sarah is a very good doctor, and in many ways an intelligent person. But politics and political argument just isn't her thing is it? The bottom line is that Sarah is simply out of her depth in Parliament. Her lack of judgement shown in the Referendum, her bizarre behaviour since, and her completely incoherent articulation of her reasons for voting for this amendment are proof that she simply does not belong in Parliament. She is the best argument against open primary selection of Tory candidates that I can think of. Everyone in the area should mobilise to remove Mrs Wollaston (as much for her own good as our's). I think a Conservative who could honour the manifesto upon which they stood would be a start. A MP who could frame a coherent argument would be an added bonus.
- George, Paignton

Thank you Sarah for supporting the sovereignty of Parliament and safeguarding our parliamentary democracy. Please continue to do so .
- LizK

The people are sovereign in a democracy and they delegate their sovereignty to Parliament by election of representatives. In the case of Brexit Parliament voted for a referendum to make a stay or leave the EU decision. SW is a remainer trying to frustrate the will of the people. She has lost my vote.
- David, Brixham

Instead of all the arguing and bickering that goes on in parliament there should be far more intelligent and positive decisions made and made promptly with regard to the electorate. The facts are we should never have joined the common market in the first place. Now we need to leave as soon as possible and whether there is a deal or not is of no consequence as no one in any walk of life is able to conclusively forecast the proster and cons of leaving the EU. I suspect that the general populace will hardly notice the difference. It will however be good to leave the EU as they have lost direction especially over the last twenty years.
- Derek

A referendum was held with a decision on in or out. There was a result, Totnes also voted a majority for out. If our elected representative does anything to subvert the result, she will lose my vote next time round.
- John. Dartington

I am an employer of 50 full time people in a small manufacturing business . That gives me some right to comment here, not emotionally as some others have here , but practically . Brexit will be a disaster if it is handled the way it has been to date by this government, without any real plan. The original referendum allowed 'grown-up' politicians to brazenly lie to the electorate during live Televised debates ( most arguments made have been shown to be false) so it is essential that the government does not get the feeling that it has a carte blanche because the will of the people have given that mandate . The use of Darren Brown to give BoJo and his colleagues the hypnotic phrase "Take back Control" every xx seconds during the debate , in the hope of somehow hypnotising the electorate is an example of how far they wanted to go to get an OUT vote . If we are to unite this country and get something at all resembling a stable future we need politicians exactly like Sarah Wollaston, able and willing to stand up to Party dogma and ensure that the process is representaive and functional, not just ideological. 37% of the electorate does not a majority make - at least in a logical sense. if it does , it requires an open mind to allow for it to also change its mind if the truth comes out, which it appears to be doing at last . I call for a second "truthful " referendum , where the genuine facts are placed before us. If we dont get that then at the VERY LEAST we must let our elected representatives watch our backs and not consignus to very real changes in our earning ability ( or as some might say , being pulled over the cliff into an abyss of unknown depth) those elected individuals who read their brief , who work long ( often thankless ) hours going over dull boring details that will protect this country from the borish dogma of Nationalism. Noone can deny our genetic make up is now so mixed, there is little room for racial dogma, we all have genes from all races . I would listen to business people over the retired and to the populace as a whole if the facts put before them in a referendum were actually true - remember the 1.5m Turkish nationals who would be knocking at our front door and the now infamous 350m for the NHS . Lies of that nature should actually ensure that politicians who use those tactics are stripped of the dignity of being able to call themselves an elected politician. Call for a second Truthful Referendum , then we will ALL accept the results. The self inflicted open wound we live with at the moment is unlikely to heal without TRUTH.
- Gabriel David -

What an obnoxious and arrogant man whom assumes himself as a businessman to be above all others . The referendum was a democratic result and he needs to accept it and stop crying into his milk.It's quite clear from his comments that some are more dictatorial that democratic when their feathers are ruffled. Get real.
- Derek

Thank God for people like Sarah. David Cameron should never have held a referendom, without educating the electorate on exactly what and how the EU and its many institutions work, pros and cons, of which most of the electorate were and still are ignorant of (myself included of course). Interestingly, since we have been negotiating our withdrawal, we have learnt that immigrants/migrants to this country from Europe and beyond are not responsible for the ills of this country, a myth perpetuated by Nigel Farage and UKIP, but major contributors to its economic success. Just about every other claim by the Brexiters has no basis in fact. Most of the ills experienced by the people of the UK are the result of UK Government decisions on domestic issues, not rules and regulations introduced by the EU, which have on the whole benefited society across Europe. And Sarah's stance on the PM's promise of a 'Brexit dividend' for the NHS when we leave the EU, 'utter tosh' is spot on and supported by every economist in the land. If you believe that Brexiters you'll believe anything. You were seduced by the claim on the side of a bus during the referendom campaign, and you are still being deliberately misled by it now.
- Patricia Vincent

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28 JUL 2017

Ambulance Services in South Devon

Following concerns about long waits for ambulances and the withdrawal of local Rapid Response Vehicles, I invited South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust, SWASFT, to an open meeting at Kingsbridge Community College. Chief Executive, Ken Wenman and the team leading operations in South Devon came to set out why services are changing and to answer questions. Many volunteer Community First Responders also joined the audience to share their experiences.

The Ambulance Service has undergone huge changes from one which primarily transported people to hospital to one staffed by highly trained paramedics with specialist equipment also capable of delivering treatment at home, backed up by a network of community first responders and co-responders from other emergency services.

The key challenge has been the rise in demand for their services. Over the past five years the number of calls has risen by 19.2% in the Totnes area, 29% in Plymouth and 23.7% in Torbay. One effect of this has been that once ambulances based in the rural South Hams have taken a patient to hospital in Torbay or Plymouth, they often get diverted to other calls in those urban areas rather than returning to base. The way that targets have been set in the past can mask poorer services in rural areas. Until now, those response targets only covered the most urgent calls with a requirement that a vehicle arrived on scene within 8 minutes in 75% of cases. Overall SWASFT met that target for the South Devon and Torbay CCG area at 75.65% of calls over the past year. But the figures I obtained for the Totnes constituency, which is more rural, tell a different story, with ambulances reaching just 61.1% of those calls in 8 minutes over the past three months. Targets need to be set in a way that doesn't lead to unintended consequences such as focusing on urban areas where they are easier to reach or allowing the arrival of an inappropriate ambulance vehicle to 'stop the clock' when measuring response times.

Now that many more treatments are available in specialist centres to help people who have suffered conditions like acute stroke and heart attack, it is more important than ever that the right vehicle attends a call. Ambulance cars, known as Rapid Response Vehicles, cannot take people to specialist centres but can distort the figures for waiting times. These vehicles are being removed but the meeting was told by SWASFT that overall ambulance hours cover would increase for the South Hams through a double crewed ambulance based at Totnes and use of a 'dynamic coverage tool', otherwise known as getting vehicles back out from urban centres to be closer to respond to emergencies across rural areas like the South Hams. Changes to targets will mean that all calls will count, and using mean average response times as well as the time taken to reach 9 in 10 calls will help to keep a focus on reducing long waits especially in rural areas. I will be following this carefully to make sure that the changes do lead to improvements in the service. These are being put it in place following the national Ambulance Response Programme trial and the following links give further background to this and to the changes:

https://www.england.nhs.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/ambulance-response-programme-letter.pdf

https://www.england.nhs.uk/2017/07/new-ambulance-service-standards-announced/

At the meeting, volunteer community first responders spoke of their concern about not being able to deliver pain relief whilst waiting for an ambulance to arrive. Ken Wenman confirmed the good news that they will now be able to receive training in the use of pain relieving gas and air.

The service has been under increasing pressure due to rising demand and this has meant that it has been coping with 2.46% less funding per call over a three year period. SWASFT's operations director Neil Chevalier, told the meeting that they had received a £3.6m uplift in funding to implement the changes from the Ambulance Response Programme trial and, in response to questions about pay, said that paramedic staff had been put onto band 6 of the NHS pay scale up from band 5.

SWASFT representatives heard direct from volunteer community first responders and local residents about the pressure on services including examples of long waits and these were all examples of why the service needs to provide a better response to rural areas. I will be following this closely.

The message that came over loud and clear was the value that we all place on our ambulance service. Thank you to all our paramedics, support staff and volunteers.

5 comments

Very useful update. Can I encourage St John's ambulance to train its community volunteers in emergency IM hydrocortisone for relief of adrenal crisis? This authorised under Schedule 19 of the Human Medicines Regulations. Our charity's experience has been that this is straightforward to master, and saves lives. We have a first hand report from an untrained office first aider who successfully gave IM hydrocortisone earlier this year for adrenal crisis prevention: he watched our How To training video on his phone. http://www.addisons.org.uk/forum/index.php?/videos/category-2-emergency-injection-videos/ See www.addisons,.org.uk for more information and case studies about this life-saving technique.
- Katherine White

I'm pleased that attention is being given to the response times in rural areas after waiting three and a half hours in my next-door neighbour's house after he fell in his kitchen and broke his hip. He was not classified as life-threatening, though he died a few days later. Even the 999 system did not work as it should have. Everything under great stress. There is line in the sand, which when crossed in the quest to deliver greater efficiencies and particular Ministerial targets get in the way of caring for the customer. Delivery of patients to A&E and Ambulance crews having to wait crazy times in order to hand over patients (queueing in corridors) is another pinch point for availability of manned Ambulances. We need a good shake of the money tree for the NHS in particular.
- mike north

So the response to the ARP trial has been to reduce ambulance cover in S. Hams by removing all the RRVs. The ambulances spend most of their time in the urban areas leaving the residents of S.Hams with less medical help than before, a paramedic in a car can still give life saving treatment as Katherine Whites's post shows. Hypoglycaemic patients are another group of patients as are those with major blood loss etc etc. If the number of 999 calls has gone up so much the question is are all these calls appropriate? J. Hunt was pushing the idea that the NHS should be a 24/7 organisation, has that contributed to people calling 999? Perhaps the Government could help by not listening to lobbyists from the tobacco and food industry but to the health service instead. Educate the public on when and how to access the health service. Encourage people to take responsibility for their own health and not expect the health service to fix the problems arising from smoking, overeating and being lazy.
- S. Hams resident

When can local Conservatives have an MP who votes for their interests, who shows some loyalty to the government and respects the vote of 23 June 2016? It ain't Sarah Wollaston that's for sure.
- George, Paignton

Well done for defeating the government ! We need a second referendum and this time the people of Britian will give the right answer . With the humiliating defeat of Mrs May we are thankfully closer to a Labour or Lib Labour goverment which will end the folly of Brexit and bring the UK back to where it belongs ; an integral and vital part of the European Union. Thankyou so much.
- Peter Thompson

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29 JUN 2017

Public Sector Pay and the NHS

Public sector pay increases, including for NHS staff, have been capped at 1% since 2013–14 and for two years prior to that subject to a pay freeze affecting the majority. NHS employees' pay fell by 10 per cent in real terms between 2009/10 and 2014/15 and continues to fall.

It is time in my view for pay restraint to be loosened but that cannot be done without a clear plan for how it will be funded.

In 2015–16, the Department of Health spent £48.7 billion on NHS provider staffing costs. The IFS estimates that each 1% increase in staff pay would add approximately £0.5 billion to the pay bill, just for the NHS. This means either additional funding for the service or painful reductions in other areas of the NHS or DH budget.

I agree with the pay review body that there are also costs in ignoring the need to increase pay. As the gap between NHS pay and jobs outside the public sector widens, this is hitting the recruitment and retention of key staff, especially when there is fierce international competition for skilled healthcare professionals. The fall in real incomes is also affecting morale, especially where staff are having to work under greater pressure to compensate for unfilled posts. Vacancies and staff shortages can also affect patient safety as well as lead to higher agency costs. Pay restraint is becoming a false economy.

For all these reasons I believe it is time for a rethink but it will require a clear plan from the Treasury as to how it will be paid for. Ending the pay cap won't happen through a simple amendment to the Queen's speech.

It is essential for all Political Parties to face up to the scale of the funding challenge across the NHS and social care and to work together to find a way forward. The reality is that the wider challenge in funding these vital services, in the face of an extraordinary increase in demand and costs, will be there for which ever Party is in Government after the next election. It is in everyone's interests for MPs to work constructively together across Party lines in the national interest. We have a responsibility to level with the public and with each other because the reality is that we are all going to have to pay more to put the NHS, social care and our other valued public services on a sustainable long term footing.

Much of the ground work has already been carried out and we should look again at the full range of proposals from the Barker Commission and the House of Lords inquiry into the sustainable long term funding of the NHS and social care.

25 comments

I admired your stance on public sector pay in parliament yesterday, you told us how the folks we regard as heroes could take no more. Then you voted against them. I require my MP to be driven by conscience, not by a desperate need to cling to power.
- Christopher Mockridge

Brexit u-turner mid campaign. Now this slap in the face. Find a way to fund it? It took your leader five minutes to find a billion to prop your party up. Sickening. I don't believe you understand the anger at this vote; this cheering that went on. It's a game once you get into the Common, where you can forget about the salt of the earth. Like that policeman that died right there at the mother of parliaments - laid down his life for a hardened political class.
- Rosalind Salter

In my 62 years I have never been so disgusted with a party as I currently am with the current Conservative party. To see the cheering following yesterday's vote denying essential public sector workers a raise after 7 years of falling wages sickened me. Your sheer hypocrisy, claiming on your blog and twitter feed to support a loosening of the pay cap whilst voting for the opposite shows that you have no morals or integrity and are clearly in politics for the benefit of your party, not for the good of the British people. Utterly shameful.
- Ian Scott

So, why not grow a backbone and vote with the opposition last night? Austerity is a political choice, not an economic necessity. And your leader proved it by finding £1.5 billion down the back of the sofa for her bigoted DUP friends in 5 minutes. Nurses having to use food banks, policeman & fireman driven to suicide because of the pressure cuts have put them under. You and your party should be ashamed. I really don't know how any Tory MP sleeps at night. At last, the country is awakening to Tory fraud. The quicker there is another GE, the better.
- Mark Jones

You write all that and then troop through the lobies opposing any increase.It is this sort of behaviour that gets politicians a bad name.This is why Jeremy Corbyn is different.During the last Labour government,if there was a policy he disagreed with he voted against it.I hope you were not one of the hooligans who cheered when the amendment was defeated.If the amendment had been passed It would have forced the treasury to look at ways of finding the money.I am 86 and owe my life to doctors and nurses in the NHS and it's time they were adequately rewarded.The firefighters and police who risked their own lives in recent events are praised by Mrs May,but are still seeing their wages fall behind and yet a billion pounds is found to keep your party in power by bribing a party that were hardly going to oppose the government.It stinks.
- Alan Bailey

Blah blah blah. "It is in everyone's interests for MPs to work constructively together across Party lines in the national interest." You had your chance yesterday.
- Figrat

I can only agree with other posters above. Funding public serve is is a choice. Finding the money reflects choices made elsewhere. Austerity has been, and continues to be, a brake on the growth of the economy, never mind the suffering it continues to cause. Choosing to spend a billion on shoring up the outcome of a pitifully poor performance around the general election (which cost another, what, £130 million of taxpayers' money and was entirely unnecessary?) is also a choice, isn't it. The public do not want this. Our elected representatives are presumably there to serve the wishes and needs of the public, for the good of our society. We are being very very badly let down, and this public hand-wringing while continuing to support these poor decisions is hypocritical in the extreme. Cross the floor, Sarah. Please.
- Veronica Conboy

Could you please explain to us WHY you voted to keep the cap Sara? Speaking in favour of lifting the freeze and then voting to keep it is pure hypocrisy! Especially since MP's have been given a pay increase and they are public sector workers, and they are also able to claim extortionate expenses. Its a slap in the face! I work in the NHS as a Emergency ambulance crew, many of my colleagues in London and the country don't want to be hailed as hero's, we just want a right to earn a decent wage.
- Noelle

The Barker Report is wide ranging but has a very important conclusion: "With a view to raising additional revenue, we recommend a comprehensive review of wealth taxation". If you also agree with this maybe it is time to cross the house or at least vote in line with your beliefs.
- Ken Pickering

Agree with all the other comments on here, SHAME ON YOU ALL!! Unbelievable scenes yesterday, cheering the decision! I had to explain to my 6 year old why all the people of TV were so happy ! Disgraceful behaviour!! VOTE for what you believe in and stop being a May Puppet. Oh and reply to your constituents and enjoy your pay rise!
- Jack

I wish I could say I was shocked by the two faced, cowardly and selfish approach shown by yourself and other members of your party. There is no point in anyone saying shame on you, for you all lack integrity and any moral standing. Of all the people to cower to, a leader who is scared, has sold members of her own party, who saved her skin,down the river and won't stop short of buying her way out with public money. You are a representative of the people yet all you do is take for yourselves, you are pathetic and immoral, all of you. Sadly you all think this is acceptable.
- Dave Hennig

As a new constituent I was at least reassured by your public pronouncements and apparently principled response to the Leave campaign's complex relationship with the truth. However I can only agree with the other posters here: You have really let yourself, and us the people you represent, down.
- Nick Quine

Many of us in the Southwest had high hopes following your election that at last there was a person who came from and really understood the health service, its needs, pressures, and the welfare of its staff and patients. So very disappointed that after all the rhetoric, in which you appeared to understand the impact that the pay freeze has had on morale aand recruitment, and therefore patient safety, that you voted against the words you had spoken. Thank goodness most of us in the NHS are advocates for our patients and not afraid to speak out, and refuse to simply toe the line if we feel something is wrong. Let's now look forward to spending even more money on agency and locum staff, and see services wither, such as dermatology at Taunton which another Conservative lady wrongly stated that she had saved.....
- Teresa

You are a disgusting person, a disgrace to your profession and your country.
- Birte Evenden

I have always been a fan of your political stances as you always seem To represent fairness and stand up for the principles You hold dear., however I was very disappointed to see you vote against the pay rise for Nhs staff despite your entry, statements and blogs to the contrary. This would seem hypocritical and you certainly have lost a lot of this integrity in my opinion with this vote. It is also maddening when politicians have a 10%pay increase that you can credibly take this stance.
- Ed Schwallins

I think your blog and the work you do is excellent. Unfortunately, your excellent work in the commons health committee failed to hold the sec of state for health to account for misleading the house regarding "increased spending"; by changing indexing, adding a year to the period and including monies already promised. As you point out retention is disasterous, and for nursing means 1 in 5 posts vacant, and applications to nursing dropped significantly since the bursary was removed. This means more "bank/locum" work with increased costs. The SOS for health plans to privatise the body which has saved money in providing locum/bank staff. Really? When you state "an amendment in the queens speech isn't the way to address this" you are being politic. The DUP deal cost £1.5 billion. That was also being politic. Honesty is required. The govt states the NHS is "safe in our hands". It is not. We need 8% of GDP (or more) to fund the NHS. The suggested cuts have been criticised by practically every body that has commented that it is not possible. The govt should be honest that the plan is for privatisation of the NHS. Why aren't you? It's called being politic; you know anyone stating this would not get into power. So you made a choice to be politic. That's your choice. But please accept that's what it is. The cheer when the ammendmemt failed was an insult to all of us working in the emergency services (including you of course as a Doctor), and was disgusting.. I was in Washington DC last week and saw live at Capital Hill the speeches made to fight against the repeal of Obama Care which would mean 22 million people not having access to health care in the U.S. if repealed. This govt seems to be demonstrating privatisation through stealth, as per the motion passed at the BMA ARM. I ask you to consider your role in that, as I have really admired you taking SOS to task; however it seems misleading the house is just accepted these days...
- Dr Peter Taysum MBBS MPhil MSc MA (home)

I always thought you were one of the good Tory MPs. I feel sickened to see that you voted for keeping the pay cap in Parliament. You are a wicked person.
- Dimer Caprol

And despite Labour having a clear unambiguous plan on how to fund the long over due pay rises you flatly refuse to accept it as it doesnt fit in with your ideology. Meanwhile you continue supporting a failing system that has seen unfettered growth for one part of society whilst at the same time sending public servants along to food banks, leaving in huge numbers and retiring as early as they possibly can to escape the unfair pressures that your 'Austerity ' plans have created. Even Marie Antoinette offered cake. All the Tories do is offer platitudes. Ive yet to see one cooked and served up on a plate that will fill the belly of anyone. Your blog on the public sector pay cap is apropos of nothing. Nothing by way of a solution offered except bread tomorrow, if you live that long. As usual in all areas where money has to be spent its 'Lets set up a review panel and procrastinate a little longer' But it just aint good enough, Sarah . And deep down you know it. Trouble is you are stuck in the middle of this Tory quagmire and dont really know how to extricate yourself without losing a lot of your friends and being rescued by getting to the Socialist side of the mire, where I think your heart as a doctor would love to take you. The Tory patient is terminally ill no chopping off of the parts of the poor to use as transplants can save it as the one ingredient medicine cannot provide is spirit and its long gone from the tory body.
- steve howard

It seems to me, you took the Hypoctritic oath. Shame on you.
- Derek Robinson

you, your party..sicken me..You are lacking in everything that I regard as decent.Ashamed that my beautiful home Town ever considered you as someone that could represent them.
- Virginia Keyes

There is no excuse for Theresa May and your so-called government to find a huge sum of money when it suits them to prop up an unworkable majority by stitching up a deal with a bunch of ulta-right thugs. We all know it. You know it. Droning on about how to help the NHS is a little thin in the circumstance - especially as everybody knows that the Tories want to privatise it bit by bit. Your party is morally bereft, ethically corrupt and has sacrificed what little respect it might have expected.
- Sam Richards

Well said all of the above. Take heed Dr Wollaston. Your constituents are watching & they are not happy.
- Jane Begley

Absolutely disgusting behaviour in the commons the other day. You had your chance Sarah but you blew it. You just join a long list of MP's we can't trust.
- Alex Clough

Where is the fair society Theresa May promised before the election ? 1. BBC presenters vastly overpaid (at license payer expense and we have no option but to pay it) whilst public sector workers get a pay freeze. 2. Even public sector workers are much better off than those who are unable to work and only get Employment Support Allowance which is less than £6,000/PA and has also been frozen since 2104 ? Theses people need help more and long term poor health can happen to anyone. There is a lot that could be done to help theses people such as unfreezing the benefit, bringing in a council tax exemption and more.
- Stuart

I am of the opinion that the NHS is badly managed, and huge savings could be made by looking carefully at the management structure, and the way it operates. Why are there so many layers of management? I am now retired, but on one project I was involved on with the NHS, meant going to a meeting to discuss the revision to one of the hospital wards, along with the other design consultants. But, as the location of the toilets had not been decided upon, the meeting was aborted, at a cost to the NHS. This was just one small example, and no doubt is repeated many times over in many hospitals of the waste. Also I have read of many inefficiencies in the NHS with regards to purchasing such simple items as rubber gloves; it makes one wonder about the purchase of more expensive equipment. In summary, the NHS should put its own house in order before asking for more cash
- Barry Day

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19 MAY 2017

Social Care is at a tipping point but increasing funding needed intergenerational fairness

This is the original article I wrote that appeared in the Times today.

One of the the most striking figures set out by the Chief Executive of NHS England, Simon Stevens, in his recent update to the NHS Forward View was that life expectancy is increasing by five hours a day. This extraordinary success has also driven an unprecedented rise in demand for health and social care to levels which can no longer be met from current spending. The Care Quality Commission is not alone in describing social care as being at a tipping point. In her manifesto, Theresa May has acknowledged that the elastic can stretch no further and promised to increase funding for social care as well as per capita spending on the NHS. The manifesto also includes a much needed boost for capital projects described as 'the most ambitious programme of investment in buildings and technology that the NHS has ever seen'. Funding promises have to be realistic and fair. The Prime Minister is right not to duck the issue of intergenerational fairness in meeting the challenge of funding social care and it would not be fair for the increasing costs of both the NHS and social care to fall entirely on the working age population. The options were never going to be easy but failure to increase spending risked the collapse of social care provision and a downward spiral of NHS performance. Hard choices on the means testing of winter fuel payments and downgrading a triple lock to a double lock on pensions after 2020 are fair if the money raised rescues social care from the brink for those who will need it the most.

It still takes many people by surprise that if they have assets over £23,250, they are liable to meet the full costs of their residential care and raising that threshold to £100,000 will be welcomed but the long awaited cap on the total that families will have to spend meeting the cost of care has been dropped. The greatest change however, is that many more people will be liable for care costs because the value of their family home will no longer be exempt if they need care in their own home. Any policy must avoid unintended consequences and ministers will need to clarify what period of grace will be applied for those who may only need short periods of care. Currently this so-called 'disregard' is set at 12 weeks for those needing residential care and it is essential that this also applies to home care. If not, it will exacerbate rather than reduce delays to hospital discharges.

The dropping of the care cap sadly leaves social care uninsurable, leaving in place the miserable lottery of care costs. A future government should at least look again at supporting state backed insurance for those who have not yet reached retirement age, so that they can begin to protect against this.

0 comments

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27 FEB 2017

The 2017 Budget Needs to Provide a Lifeline for Social Care and a Plan for the Future

This is an article that I wrote for the Times.

As the Chancellor finalises his 2017 Budget he can no longer afford to ignore the stark warnings about the impact on individuals and the NHS from the crisis in adult social care. Last year the Care Quality Commission described the fragility of the system as approaching a 'tipping point'. The situation looks set to worsen without an immediate lifeline and one that goes beyond the uneven and inadequate sticking plaster of a 3% increase in council tax precepts. To put this in context, last year's uplift in the precept raised £382m but this was entirely swallowed by the £612m increase in costs from the National Living Wage. Precepts also entrench inequality as those areas least able to raise money also have a greater proportion of residents who are fully dependent on their local authority to fund their social care. The 2017 Budget needs to bring forward the so-called Better Care Fund already planned for later in the spending review and it needs to be 'new' money, not a smoke and mirrors device to transfer funding from an already overstretched NHS.

Over the last review period 09/10 to 14/15, local authority spending on adult social care fell by 10% at a time of profound and ongoing demographic change. Despite rising demand for services, more than a million people are estimated to be going without the care they need. It is a false economy because they are increasingly ending up in A&E or stuck in hospital when they could and should have been discharged. The knock on effect on NHS services has been the marked rise in waiting times, 'trolley waits', and cancelled appointments and admissions. What is surprising and unacceptable is that no government has assessed the full impact and cost of the shortfall in social care on the NHS.

The number of people with care needs is expected to rise by more than 60% over the next 20 years whilst the proportion of individuals of working age will continue to shrink in relation to those living in retirement.

It's time to stop presenting longevity as if it were a negative. It is amongst the greatest achievements of our age and government needs to highlight and support the extraordinary value that older people add to our communities. It also needs to set out how we will fund social care for the rising numbers of people who will need help to live with dignity in older age. There has been an abject failure of successive governments to plan for the future. Councils also need certainty about the Care Act provisions, delayed to 2020, which bring in a cap on care costs and change the financial threshold for entitlement.

The Prime Minister has already confirmed that she is looking at social care but it is worrying that her review currently excludes the NHS. The two systems are inextricably linked.

In his 2017 Budget, the Chancellor must show that he has grasped the seriousness of the situation and announce an immediate cash injection for social care. He should also set out plans to tackle the greatest domestic challenge of all; how to bring forward a fair and sustainable long term settlement for both the NHS and social care.

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30 JAN 2017

Trump Trading on Prejudice

This is an article that I wrote for The Guardian

Donald Trump made no secret of his deeply divisive instincts during his long campaign for the White House. Vile racial and religious stereotyping, misogyny, his support for torture, even parodying those with disabilities. All his prejudices were worn as a badge of honour, displayed from campaign platforms and television studios for months on end.

Locker room talk, we were told, of his boasts of 'grabbing women by the pussy' as voters were assured that the office of Presidency would surround him with wise counsel and bring out the statesman in him. Less than a month since his inauguration, the stark reality must be dawning on Americans, that their choice of President isn't 'draining the swamp' but dragging them into one of his own making. We don't have to join them.

It would be a mistake to dismiss Donald Trump as some oafish 'man baby' impulsively blurting whatever comes into his mind. His actions seem calculated to offend, bully and control.

Some touted the hand holding with Theresa May as the seal of a special relationship and a gentlemanly gesture. To me it smacked of the unwelcome infantilising of a strong female leader, more than capable of negotiating the White House steps on her own.

In the rush to forge a trade deal Mrs May should remember that Trump's executive orders since assuming office don't just affect millions of Americans but our own citizens. Nadhim Zahawi MP, is just one of many thousands of our fellow Britons who are now barred from the USA for no reason other than the nation of their birth. All those countries on his banned list are predominantly Muslim countries apart from, as Andrew Neil points out, 'those where Trump Org has business interests'.

A shameful curtain of prejudice and discrimination is drawing across the Land of the Free and, if we are truly in a special relationship, true friends should be frank in saying so. By his actions as well as his words Trump is also turning back the clock on women's rights across the world. His executive order bringing in the so called 'global gag' will restrict access to safe contraception and healthcare as well as to safe termination of pregnancy for the world's most disadvantaged women.

The State Visit looks set to go ahead but symbols matter. Westminster Hall has long been reserved for those Statesmen and Stateswomen who have made a lasting and positive difference in the world. That does not include Mr Trump. No doubt there will be those who wish to fawn over him, but that must not be from the steps of our nation's greatest hall.

13 comments

Thank you, Sarah, for your brave and principled article in the Guardian. Bob
- Dr Robert Lawson-Peebles

Donald Trump's first week should be a warning to the UK to tread carefully. We should not appease him just as Chamberlain should not have appeased Hitler. We should not turn a blind eye to his brand of evil in case it hurts our wallets. There are those, like the Sun, who have a go at you for your stance, Sarah but they are plain wrong. Please carry on with your efforts to debar him from Westminster Hall. He has no place there, and if he finds one our democracy is diminished. Those who say we should accept him as the USA's democratically elected president and leader of the free world should remember that Hitler was democratically elected too, and in a very similar way in the first year made a grab for power that left him unassailable. Let us not make the same mistake with this 'sickening piece of work'.
- Peter Scott

Peter Scott seems to go for Godwin's law at the outset. ! The US is the largest most powerful country in the world and has elected a President who will put the interests of the American people first. We as a nation need to work with the US if we are to make Brexit ( opposed by Ms Wollaston ) a success. Most of Ms Wollastons article it is a mixture of half truths and MSM propaganda.
- Peter Thompson

Excellent article. Thank you. I am very opposed to honouring him with a state visit or the opportunity for him to talk in Parliament. Teresa May has jumped the gun in inviting him. Please pass on my thumbs down to her.
- Tracy Harris

How about adding to the rapidly growing number of Britons who are fed up with people undermining the strategy of our courageous Theresa May and sign the 'other' government petition at: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/178844 and trust the Queen and our PM when they invite President Trump to visit and see what we can do.
- David

Thank you for making such a principled stand.
- Andy Christian

Just the guy to take on Putin!
- Sam Seal

I really cannot work out why Sarah continues to sit with the Tories in the Commons. She has scarcely a Conservative bone in her body and hardly a positive thing to say Brexit or Theresa May. Joining in the hyperbole about Trump is about the level I expect these days. Why not just resign, and let the Tores stand a candidate in the constituency more in tune with their values?
- George, Paignton

Well done on your opposition to Trump speaking in Westminster Hall. This week you also expressed your opposition to 3000 child refugees being allowed to come to Britain. Could you please explain your thinking behind that?
- Chris Davison

Thank you for your principled stand - I am deeply worried about turning our backs on our biggest trading partner and allying ourselves with Trump. I believe tats a lot of people are now wondering how safe our country is economically following Brexit and Trump's nomination. By the way Chris Davison Sarah did not express opposition this week against the child refugees. Sarah remainsin favour of resettling child refugees. The decision was made by the Home Office.
- Alison Williams

We spoke to several Americans, including students, while on holiday in Florence recently. I said we felt that there must have been something seriously wrong in America for people to vote for him. They said that the alternative was worse and Hilary Clinton was not popular. The students said that they would wait and see.
- Irene Allum

I agree with George. Most of what Sarah stands for flies in the face of what the conservative government is actually doing from social cuts, women's rights Trump and environmental issues Sarah is clearly at odds with her government and its leader. Please get off the fence and fight for a opposing political that can and will make a difference.
- Rupert Eden

I think Trump is wonderful and many of his policies are well thought out and carefully considered. I would enjoy Trump dealing with the EU on behalf of United Kingdom as he would soon dismiss the idiotic notions that the EU hold and guide us to a pleasanter realm.
- Derek

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