Stephen meets British Heart Foundation to discuss artificial intelligence

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Whilst at this year’s Labour Party Conference, Stephen visited the British Heart Foundation (BHF).

Stephen met with the BHF’s policy team to hear how the charity is funding innovative research to find better ways to diagnose and treat heart failure, which is a leading cause of hospital admissions for over-65s.

As the largest independent funder of cardiovascular research in the UK, the BHF is committed to accelerating progress in data science to find new ways of diagnosing and treating the more than 7 million people living with heart and circulatory disease in the UK.

One of the BHF-funded research projects Stephen discussed with the charity is a project being run by Professor Declan O’Regan at Imperial College London. Professor O’Regan’s research uses artificial intelligence to help diagnose certain conditions more effectively than doctors are able to. Currently, diagnosis of heart failure relies on a doctor interpreting scans and it can be difficult for them to predict how the disease will progress.

To help address this, Professor O’Regan’s team have developed a machine learning algorithm ‘trained’ to find links between 3D heart scans and the patient’s prognosis, using existing patient data. This can help inform doctors’ decisions about how to best treat people living with heart failure.

Stephen also discussed the need for clarity about who is responsible for regulating artificial intelligence, and ensuring that AI systems are transparent about how they reach decisions. This is important so that patients can have trust in these rapidly developing technologies that have the potential to improve outcomes for people living with heart and circulatory conditions.

Speaking afterwards, Stephen said: “It was great to speak with the British Heart Foundation at Labour Party Conference to hear about how the charity is funding cutting-edge research, harnessing the power of AI to save lives.

“It was interesting to learn how the BHF is using new technology and data to help doctors better diagnose and treat the 550,000 people in the UK who have been diagnosed with heart failure.

“I agree with the BHF that we need clarity about who is responsible for regulating artificial intelligence in healthcare, so that people can trust these new technologies that offer potentially significant benefits for the more than 7 million people living with heart and circulatory conditions in the UK.”

Stephen pledges to back a law to end unsafe pavement parking

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Stephen has spoken with the charity Guide Dogs at the Labour Party conference about the challenges pavement parked cars create for blind and partially sighted people, who may have to risk their safety by walking into the road just to get by.

A survey by Guide Dogs showed that 97% of blind or partially sighted people encounter problems with street obstructions, and 90% of those had experienced trouble with a pavement parked car.

Stephen heard of the difficulties that councils face in trying to tackle the issue with their current powers, and why Guide Dogs is calling for a clear law on pavement parking. He pledged to support the charity’s campaign to make pavement parking an offence, except in areas where local authorities grant specific exemptions. This would give local authorities real power to properly tackle this problem and bring the rest of the country in line with the current law in Greater London, which has been in place since 1974.

Statement by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Egypt

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On Tuesday, the All Party Parliamentary Group for Egypt hosted a discussion in Parliament between a non-official group of Egyptian representatives and representatives of Human Rights Watch.  

The meeting was hosted by the co-chairs of the APPG, The Rt. Hon. Stephen Timms MP and Mr Jonathan Lord MP.  Lord Stone of Blackheath, Lord Marlseford DL and Mr Samir Takla, the group’s advisor, were also in attendance.

The Egyptian group consisted of Dr Mahmoud Karem of the Egyptian National Council for Human Rights; Dr Maya Morsi, President of the Egyptian National Council for Women; Mrs. Dalia Youssef MP, chair of the Egyptian-British Parliamentary Group; Judge Ms. Marwa Barakat; and Dr Heba Hagrass MP, member of the Egyptian Parliament’s Social Solidarity, Family, and Persons with Disabilities Committee.

Human Rights Watch was represented by North Africa and Middle East officer Amr Magdi, senior legal advisor Clive Baldwin, women’s rights officer Rothna Begum and advocacy and communications officer Myrto Tilianaki.

The discussion entailed a constructive exchange of views, and ideas for future co-operation.

MPs debate TOEIC visa scandal

 MPs during the Westminster Hall debate

MPs during the Westminster Hall debate

Earlier this week, MPs debated the government's handling of the so-called "Toeic students". The estimated 7,000 students had their visas cancelled after a BBC Panorama investigation in 2014 uncovered evidence of widespread cheating at testing centres delivering the Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC).

On 10 February 2014 the BBC’s Panorama programme exposed cheating in some colleges which administer the Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC) for non-EEA students. In response the Home Office revoked or curtailed the visas of thousands of students it suspected of fraud. The evidence on which the Home Office relied in these visa decisions has been called into question, and led critics to claim that many individuals were falsely accused of cheating by the Home Office

During the debate, Wes Streeting, MP for Ilford North, cited figures obtained by the House of Commons Library, which said that by the end of September 2016 more than 35,870 visa holders had had their visa refused or curtailed on the basis of the TOEIC scandal, and more than 4,600 had been removed from the country. Wes went on to called the case “Britain’s forgotten immigration scandal,” referencing the recent Windrush scandal, and said the Home Office had placed students outside the normal immigration processes by denying them the right to appeal. He insisted that an apology and full compensation be given to students, and said an independent inquiry into the case is necessary. Other MPs echoed his calls.

Both lawyers representing the students, Patrick Lewis QC and Sonali Naik QC of Garden Chambers, expressed their disappointment at the minister’s response. Speaking afterwards to Professionals in International Education News, Patrick said "...I just don’t understand the minister’s response… there should be acknowledgement that ETS can make mistakes and [the government] can’t simply rely on the accusations that they make.” Sonali also criticised the minister’s use of the word "proportionate" and said that the push for out-of-country appeals does remedy the situation. "It’s not proportionate to treat everybody in the same way when you know your evidence may well be flawed,” she said.

Speaking afterwards, Stephen said "It was very important that MPs had the chance to debate this issue in the House of Commons. The MPs who took part made clear just how much hardship has been inflicted – unfairly – on a very large number of students.
 
“The Minister’s reply to the debate suggests that the Home Office still hasn’t grasped the scale of the problem, or recognised the hardship they have caused to so many students.  Thousands have done nothing wrong, but been robbed of their futures by the actions of the British Government.
 
“I will shortly be asking the Home Secretary to meet with me and others to discuss what redress can - belatedly - be offered to the students who had their visas cancelled through no fault of their own.”

Stephen attends arthritis event in Parliament

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Stephen joined people with arthritis at an event in Parliament last week to hear about life with the condition and learn how aids and adaptions in the home can help people live independently. 

The event followed the launch of Arthritis Research UK’s Room to Manoeuvre report, which looks at the provision of aids and adaptations for people with arthritis. MPs heard from people with arthritis about how aids and adaptations – such as grab rails or specialised kitchen equipment - have changed their lives. They also tried a variety of home aids and heard about findings from the report, which reveals that many people aren’t getting the support they’re entitled to. 

Arthritis and related conditions are the number one cause of pain and disability in the UK, affecting 17.8 million people across the country. 

Local authorities have a legal duty to provide aids and adaptations to those who are eligible. However, the charity’s report found that 8 in 10 (84%) survey respondents who are eligible for support are missing out on life-changing equipment, and more than half are buying equipment themselves. 

Arthritis Research UK is calling on local authorities to ensure people with arthritis and related conditions are assessed and, if eligible, provided with aids and minor adaptations free of charge. The charity is also calling on central government to support local authorities to meet these duties.

Speaking afterwards, Stephen said: “4,087 of people in East Ham are living with osteoarthritis of the hip, 6,768 with osteoarthritis of the knee and 20,251 with back pain, so I wanted to show my support for them in Parliament and hear from people with arthritis about the help that makes a difference to their lives.

“Aids and adaptations in the home can help people to remain independent for longer, and I want to make sure that people with arthritis in East Ham know about the support on offer. I urge people to reach out to Arthritis Research UK for expert information, help and advice.”

Stephen welcome Plashet School to Parliamentary final

Yesterday, Plashet School competed in the final of the Solutions for the Planet’s Big Ideas Competition in the Houses of Parliament.

Solutions for the Planet is a social enterprise which works with businesses, schools and communities to promote education for sustainable development, social enterprise, and science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) careers for young people. The team presented their big idea of ‘Rent-a-bike’ to a panel of judges having fought off over 3,000 other teams across the country to make it to the Final. The idea involved the upcycling and renovation of old bicycles and then renting them out for day hire .The group said the idea would reduce waste and dependency on cars.

Speaking after the event, Stephen said “I was impressed by the ingenuity and thought that had gone into this idea that seeks to address the issue of pollution, not just in East Ham, but across the country!”

A similar competition is expected to be run by Solutions for the Planet next year that will seek to once again produce creative ideas as students seek to sustainable improve our country.

Stephen attends KickStart Money

Stephen has attended a session of the successful money skills programme aimed at primary school children, KickStart Money, in the Houses of Parliament. The workshops are normally held in schools across the country, however this special session took place in Parliament to mark the launch of a report into the effectiveness of the programme. 

The independent evaluation found the initiative to be highly effective, with 70% of pupils consulted three months after delivery working towards a saving goal. The young people surveyed strongly agreed that “...how they think about and treat money now will make a difference to their future”. Teachers also reported that “...87% of their pupils now understand that their financial decisions have consequences”.

The KickStart money programme is delivered by the charity MyBnk and is funded by a grouping of 20 leading financial services firms brought together by the Tax Incentivised Savings Association. The initiative is part of a mission to demonstrate to the Government the advantages of including financial education on the primary school curriculum. KickStart aims to help set up young people to be responsible savers in the future. It hopes to reach 18,000 children over 3 years thanks to a cross-industry collaborative £1 million investment. 

Research by the Money Advice Service has found that early intervention is key and that behavioural attitudes to money are formed by the age of seven. Only one third of parents talk to their children about money, and there is a significant lack of financial education provision in schools for children in the UK, particularly at the primary level. 

Today, Stephen watched a class of 9 – 11 year olds as they tackled everything from understanding the value of money, to the importance of delayed gratification and saving. The workshop will be coming to Stephen’s constituency next week.
 

Stephen attends local jobs fair

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Last week, Stephen attended the Community Links Jobs Fair in East Ham. The event included exhibition stalls from several local employers such as Nando’s, Zzetta, Travel Lodge, Bupa and IBM. Other local organisations also attended, including the University of East London, Newham Workplace and West Ham United Foundation.

The fair offered guests the unique opportunity to interview for jobs on the day. Attendees were also offered free interview clothing provided by Ben Sherman, and had the chance to browse stalls set up by small businesses and self-employed entrepreneurs. Further entertainment included face painting, games, a raffle, and free food provided by Nando’s and Zzetta Pizza.

Speaking after the event, Stephen said “today’s Jobs Fair was a big success. In the current climate, it is vital that we help people into work and this is a great way to do just that”.

“More and more employers are looking to recruit in Newham as London continues to move east, which is very encouraging!”.

Stephen hosts ParliaMentors graduation ceremony

 Stephen with members of Faith2Faith

Stephen with members of Faith2Faith

Earlier this week, Stephen hosted the graduation ceremony for this year’s cohort of ParliaMentors from the Faith and Belief Forum. The event was held in Parliament and included a keynote speech from Luciana Berger, MP for Liverpool Wavertree, about the importance of faith, cohesion and driving change at a local level. Graduates of the scheme were presented with certificates and thanked for their hard work and dedication across each of their social action projects.

ParliaMentors is a UN award-winning leadership programme which offers university students of different faiths and non-religious beliefs the opportunity to work together to create real social change. Each team is sponsored by an MP and has access to Westminster, local and national NGOs, and expert training. This equips students with the necessary skills to make positive changes to their communities, their careers and the political arena.

45 students completed the programme this year, across 9 different universities. Stephen mentored a team of 5 from Queen Mary University. The team’s project, Faith2Faith, brought together faith and non-faith students to nurture a community allotment on the university campus.

Speaking after the reception, Stephen said “I was delighted to host the graduation ceremony today. I very much enjoyed my visits to the community garden at Queen Mary University, and I wish the team all the very best in the future”.
 

Stephen criticises "negligent" Ministers over Youth Obligation

Stephen has uncovered the failure of government flagship scheme, Youth Obligation, to keep any records of their clients. Recent reports suggested that around 15,300 young people have dropped off the scheme without finding work, and without the organisation gathering any information about their whereabouts.

Youth Obligation was set up in April 2017 to offer specialist help to 18 – 21 year-olds from Jobcentre advisors. It has replaced the government’s Work Programme and aims to help young people into employment by offering advice on how to succeed with applications and interviews.

Speaking to the Independent, Stephen said “it is extraordinarily negligent not to collect the data for the programme. Without it, the government will have no idea if it is succeeding or failing.” 

He has also emphasised that “young people’s jobs are often temporary, low-paid and part-time. The government has to find a way to enable them to progress into permanent, better-paid, full-time employment.”

Stephen hosts MS reception in Westminster

 Picture: Rebecca Cresta/MS Society

Picture: Rebecca Cresta/MS Society

Following a report published by the MS Society, a charity which supports those with multiple sclerosis, the MP hosted the Westminster event to discuss the negative impact PIP has on those with MS.

MS is a neurological condition which affects the brain and spinal chord. It can cause spasms, cognitive problems and issues with balance.

PIP is the replacement benefit for the Disability Living Allowance (DLA). Its rollout began in 2013, with the biggest change being the ‘20 metre rule’ – an assessment which states if you can walk more than 20 metres, you aren’t eligible for the highest rate of mobility support. Under the DLA, this limit was 50 metres.

According to a survey in the MS Society’s report, 65 per cent of people with MS said the new rule had negatively impacted their illness. Under the old assessment, 94pc of people with MS were receiving the highest rate of mobility support – now it’s just 66pc.

Genevieve Edwards, the society’s director of external affairs, said: “It’s causing enormous harm to people with MS, with many losing their independence as a result. This senseless and unfounded rule is leading to people with the highest need facing the biggest losses.

“The 20 metre rule was strongly opposed by charities, people with MS and medical professionals when it was first introduced. PIP needs to change, starting with the government scrapping the 20 metre rule.”

Speaking after the reception, Stephensaid: “What we’d like to see, firstly, is the distance changed back to 50 metres. Also, the report shows that while you may save money from reducing people’s benefits, those people tend to use the NHS more as a consequence. It’s a false economy, because while a bit of money has been saved from benefits, more are relying on the NHS.”

“One of the worrying things with MS is it’s a degenerative disease – you only get worse. The system that’s been put in place means you keep being tested, which creates worry for people and uncertainty. Once you need support for MS, you’ll need it forever.”

Stephen unveils new MRI scanner at Newham University Hospital

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Stephen has  joined Lyn Brown, the Member of Parliament for West Ham, in opening a new MRI scanner at Newham University Hospital.

The pair cut the ribbon to officially unveil the state of the art device, which means that patients suspected of having prostate cancer can now be scanned on site, rather than being transferred to the City of London for treatment.

Around 500 people are being treated with the scanner each month, said the hospital’s clinical director of imaging, Dr Hussein Kamel. The technology will reduce patient waiting times and allow for more accurate diagnoses, according to Barts Health NHS Trust, who run the hospital.

Speaking afterwards, Stephen said: "I really welcome the investment being made, which is being reflected in the high degree of confidence that the people of Newham now have in this hospital.”

Stephen visits Sir John Heron primary school

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Stephen has visited Sir John Heron Primary School in Manor Park. Whilst there he met with primary school pupils taking part in a programme designed to encourage a university education.

The pupils are currently on the Scholars Programme, a national scheme which offers university-style learning. It is run by charity The Brilliant Club, which aims to increase the number of pupils from under-represented backgrounds going to a highly selective university.

Speaking afterwards, Stephen said: “I want to see young people from our area doing as well at school as those from anywhere in the country, and this initiative can only help.

“I wish the pupils the very best for the future, and I hope more schools will give their pupils the chance to benefit from the programme.”

Stephen meets London Area Manager from The Royal British Legion

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Earlier this week, Stephen met with the Royal British Legion’s local Area Manager Ryan Allain to discuss support for the Armed Forces community in London.

The Royal British Legion is the country’s largest Armed Forces charity, and provides support for many thousands of veterans, serving personnel and their families. Stephen Timms MP attended a Legion event in Parliament to show support for the charity’s work, and met with the local Area Manager to discuss current issues facing the Armed Forces community.  

Legion research has found that the biggest issues currently experienced by working-age members of the UK ex-Service community include hearing loss and difficulty finding employment; among over-75s, physical health and care are among the most common problems. The Legion successfully campaigned for a £10m hearing loss fund, supports career transition through its Civvy Street website and delivers practical assistance through community outreach services and six care homes. A network of 16 high street ‘Pop In’ centres has also been developed to make it easier for beneficiaries to seek help.  

Ryan Allain, the Legion’s Area Manager for London, said “I was delighted to see Stephen Timms MP and we were grateful that he took the time to drop in. The Royal British Legion provides lifelong support for the Armed Forces community – serving men and women, veterans and their families. This latest parliamentary event offered a great opportunity to spread the word about the range of services we provide, and it was a pleasure to discuss this in detail with Stephen”.

Stephen added, “I enjoyed meeting staff from The Royal British Legion and learning more about the work being done in my local area. Members of the Armed Forces community make huge sacrifices in Service of our country and I am proud to support the work of the Legion in honouring the memory of the fallen and building a better future for the living.”
 

Stephen visits cancer support service at Newham University Hospital

 Stehen with Managing Director Chris Pocklington, Macmillan Lead Nurse for Cancer, Dr Barry Quinn, and Clinical Director for Surgery and Cancer, Dr Jason Saunders.

Stehen with Managing Director Chris Pocklington, Macmillan Lead Nurse for Cancer, Dr Barry Quinn, and Clinical Director for Surgery and Cancer, Dr Jason Saunders.

Stephen has visited the Macmillan Information and Support Service at Newham University Hospital to see how the facility works.

Macmillan helps support people during and after their cancer treatment in a variety of ways, including therapy sessions, booklets, and a phone line people can call, according to its website.

This service at the Plaistow hospital allows people to prioritise what it is important to them and helps connect them with services in the community.

Macmillan is located in hospitals and out in the community, in places like local libraries and shops. As of 2016, it operated 1,060 posts around England, according to an announcement. 

Mr Timms said of Friday’s visit: “I was impressed by the range of information and support available to patients from Macmillan services at the hospital to address the financial, practical, and emotional impact of a cancer diagnosis, complementing the clinical care the hospital provides.”

Stephen writes to Home Secretary about TOEIC students

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Stephen has written to the new Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, about a number of "TOEIC students” who had their visas curtailed after a BBC Panorama investigation in 2014 revealed cheating at centres run by US firm ETS. ETS were appointed by the Home Office to deliver the Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC)

Stephen is concerned that there has been no independent assessment of who had cheated. The Home Office relied on allegations by ETS against some 40,000 people. Serious doubts have now been raised about reliability of the allegations and courts have found some of the refusals to be wrong. It is thought that up to 7,000 students may have been wrongly accused. 

Stephen will shortly be tabling for a debate on this issue in the House of Commons, and will be asking the Ministerr for three things: a clear statement that appeals in TOEIC cases must be heard in the UK; that those affected will have their rights restored while awaiting their appeals; and that people wrongly removed from the UK will have a chance of redress.

To view the letter, please click here.
 

Stephen shows his support for Christian Aid Week

Stephen this week attended a Christian Aid Big Brekkie event in Parliament, to show his support for Christian Aid Week (13-19 May, caweek.org). This year Christian Aid Week is encouraging the British public to stand together with the millions of displaced people who have been forced to leave their homes around the world. 

Ahead of Christian Aid Week, Stephen attended the event in Parliament to find out about activities and events taking place during the charity’s annual fundraising week in East Ham. Last year, £2053 was raised in East Ham during Christian Aid Week.       

Today, more than 40 million people are internally displaced by conflict, accounting for approximately two thirds of those who find themselves forced from their homes.  A further 24 million were displaced by disasters in 2016 alone.  Yet, because they haven’t crossed a border, the general public rarely hear about them. 

Despite the huge number of people affected, situations of internal displacement receive almost no political attention, funding or support. 

Speaking afterwards, Stephen said: "I was pleased to meet with Christian Aid this week, to hear about the great work that is being done in East Ham and across the country to help people around the world who have been forced from their homes. For millions of people across the globe, Christian Aid's work provides vital support. I encourage my constituents to get involved in Christian Aid Week events in East Ham where they can."

Simon Kirkland, Christian Aid's UK Parliamentary and Political Adviser, said: "We are very grateful for Stephen Timms’s support for Christian Aid's important fundraising events in East Ham. Everyone can do something to help this Christian Aid Week, whether it's attending a local event, giving money or praying for the world's many displaced people at this difficult time. Thank you to everyone who is able to take part in this year's Christian Aid Week."
 

Meeting about Avenue Primary School

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"Earlier today I met with Hafise Nazif, the Head Teacher of Avenue Primary School, Martin Powell-Davies of the National Education Union and Grainne Siggins from Newham Council to discuss a number of issues relating to the academisation of Avenue Primary.

"Positive steps were taken to create dialogue between all parties.  It was agreed that the Head would propose to the Governors that a further meeting take place next week between the governing body, myself and Newham Council."

 

Stephen comments on situation in Burma

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Stephen has echoed the concerns of Labour MPs following a debate held yesterday in the House of Commons on the Rohingya crisis. The debate was tabled by Labour MP, Helen Jones.

During the debate, MPs called for the government to take stronger action against the Burmese military and government and demanded that the UK should look at imposing pose targeted sanctions and an arms embargo on the Burmese military to help end the conflict.

There have been widespread reports of human rights violations in Rakhine State. The resulting refugee crisis has seen nearly 650,000 flee to Bangladesh and there have been multiple reports of torture, ill treatment, extrajudicial killing, arson, mass rape and other forms of sexual violence by the Burmese security forces.

The High commissioner of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Prince Zeid bin Ra’ad describing the situation as “…a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.” The UN Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Mark Lowcock, added that he had seen “…a level of Human suffering… that I have never seen before.”

Speaking after the debate, Stephen said: “Those responsible for these actions must be held accountable and the rights of the Rohingya must be secured and preserved. Alongside an end to the conflict, those who have been forced to flee into Bangladesh must also be guaranteed safe return to their homes.

“The UK government should use its influence in the UN Security Council to seek legally binding guarantees towards the recognition and implementation of the rights of the Rohingya people by the Burmese government.”