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News From Westminster- Celebrating Parliament By Michelle Donelan

This week was the annual ‘Parliament Week,’ a week in which we celebrate UK Parliamentary tradition, democracy and the freedoms which our democratic institutions protect.

I have always taken an active part in these celebrations and this past week I arranged a number of tours of Parliament, as well as attending local school events to answer questions on Parliament and current affairs.

The highlight of the week was certainly my visit to Ivy Lane school in Chippenham where I had the opportunity to speak to the children about the role of an MP and answer their questions on Parliament and current affairs. There are certainly some budding MPs of the future in our schools and I was very impressed with the quality of the questioning and the engagement of the children in current affairs with topics discussed including the European Union, refugees and education.

Keeping with the theme of education, this week I was able to ask a question in the House of Commons of the Minister of State for Universities, whether he agreed with me that the introduction of the Office for Students in January will increase transparency in university spending and drive value for money in higher education. It is vital that our students are getting value for money from their tuition fees, which currently I do not think they are. Interest rates are too high but so are the fees for some institutions. There is very little differentiation in fees for top UK universities compared with ones much further down in all the league tables, who often lack the same level of resources and teaching expertise etc. It is for these reasons that I will continue to campaign for ratio of money spent on teaching and research to be made readily available to all who are deciding where to study, enabling them to make an informed choice.

Here in the constituency, I have been out a great deal in recent months, speaking to residents on the doorstep and one issue which keeps coming up is that of GP waiting times. I was able to use Prime Minister’s Questions this week to challenge the PM directly on this issue on behalf of the voters and ask why we do not require medical students who receive generous subsidies for their courses to practice for a minimum of 5 years in the NHS after graduation.

We need to stem the brain drain of GPs training in the UK but practicing abroad, to ensure we can fill shortages the profession is facing. We must be bold and make tough decisions to save our NHS and help our medical staff. Yes we need to work on improving the moral of our unsung heroes, but we also need to reduce the pressures on them by ensuring there are enough doctors to share the workloads. We have removed caps and increased the numbers training, however large numbers of newly qualified doctors are still going overseas. This cannot be morally right when medical students only pay 28% of the total cost, meaning that the taxpayer funds 72% and we should seek to address this.

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