Yesterday I returned to a hospital where I worked many years ago. I used to gaze across the Thames from the window at St Thomas’ to the Houses of Parliament, not knowing they would have much direct relevance to me. More particularly, I used to watch the barges plying up and down the river. What was never on my mind, because I did not know about it, was female genital mutilation (FGM). But now I do. And that owes much to those whom I met today, and to those who have battled on this cause for years, to rid the world of FGM within a generation.
One of those women is Comfort Momoh, an FGM Consultant and Public Health Specialist who back in 1997 established the African Well Woman’s Clinic at Guy’s and St Thomas’. Today this is the busiest FGM clinic in the UK, seeing up to 400 women a year, undertaking reversals, delivering infants, and advising other clinics round the country. Comfort is still at the helm – and as she explained, to many women her very name was a reassurance to them. It seemed right that on my first FGM visit as International Development Minister, it was to Comfort and her clinic that I should go.
Extra Access for All funding will make 26 additional rail stations accessible to all.
Twenty-six rail stations in England, Scotland and Wales will receive a share of £60 million funding to improve access for passengers, Lib Dem Transport Minister Baroness Kramer announced today, Tuesday 16 December 2014.
Accessible, step-free access will be provided at each of the stations after the government announced additional funding earlier this month to extend the Access for All programme. Each of the stations will get an accessible route into the station and between each platform, such as via lifts.
Baroness Kramer said:
Making the rail network accessible to all is a vital part of our plans to build a stronger economy and a fairer society.
These improvements will make a real difference to passengers – from those with limited mobility, to people with heavy luggage or parents with prams. This is great news.
The Energy Policy in Wales summit, which is being held at the Angel Hotel in Cardiff, will discuss the future of energy in Wales, including the proposed Wylfa site, wind, solar and marine power generation.
Baroness Randerson, in acknowledging the huge economic and social importance of the sector and the need to secure its future, said:
Energy drives our economy and our way of life – if we cannot keep the lights on, keep the computers running, and keep our homes and offices warm, little else matters.
Without a reliable energy supply for the future, our efforts to meet legally binding targets to address climate change, or keep costs under control, will become much less important.
She highlighted the importance of change and the opportunities this presents for Wales as well as the need for more collaboration between the Government and the Private Sector to ensure a positive future for the sector in Wales, saying:
From small scale, community based renewables to Wylfa Newydd and tidal lagoons, I want Wales, once again, to be a world leader in energy supply and in the manufacture of the technology it requires.
It is now down to the private sector – companies such as you here today – to continue to grasp the challenge, to innovate and show that Wales can lead the world.
Like all 13 or 14 year olds of my generation in the UK I had my BCG vaccination while I was at High School. I remember that we all compared our scars for months afterwards. We believed at that time that TB – like smallpox – could be eradicated from our society.
TB, or consumption, was supposed to be an illness of poverty of times gone by. In Victorian Britain it was known as ‘the silent killer’ and as many as one in four deaths was attributable to TB. So high was the TB death rate, in fact, that TB has been estimated to have killed more people than any other infectious disease in human history.
Last Thursday I instigated a short debate in the House of Lords on what the Government is doing to reduce rates of TB in the UK. Baroness Sarah Ludford also spoke in the debate and focussed on the particularly high incidence of TB in London and Baroness Judith Jolly replied for the Government.
It’s been just over a month since I became our International Development Minister, and I’ve enjoyed every moment since. When she held the role, Lynne Featherstone used to say it was the best job in government and I wholeheartedly agree. Shaping and seeing first-hand how UK aid transforms the lives of the world’s poorest, most vulnerable and most marginalised people is a Lib Dem dream job.
Yesterday I met with Stonewall and the Kaleidoscope Trust to discuss what DFID is doing to address the problems faced by one of the most marginalised groups – LGBT communities in developing countries. Of course I have long drawn on the fantastic Stonewall and Kaleidoscope Trust expertise both for our domestic and international work on equalities, but I was keen to meet them in my new capacity at DFID and learn how we can best work together. Their international work is truly impressive, from educating international development NGOs on LGBT rights and concerns, to engaging global businesses to use their leverage in the fight for equality, to helping to train local campaigners across the world in campaigning and legal techniques.
This is a major step forward for the UK. According to the feasibility study, gains from the domestic supply of converting low value waste to high value transport fuel could be worth up to £130 million gross value added to the UK by 2030, and potentially up to £500 million per year including exports. Therefore, I believe that using our world class research capabilities, this competition will provide real opportunities for UK businesses to become a global leader in this market.
Originally announced by the then Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Norman Baker MP last August, the £25 million of capital funding, supported by significant private sector investment, is designed to achieve the construction of up to 3 demonstration-scale advanced biofuel plants in the UK. Awards will be made in 2015 and the funding will be available until 2018.
Relative to first-generation biofuels (those made from traditional crops, starch, sugars or vegetable oil), advanced fuels could deliver greater carbon savings without the same concerns around food security and land use change. Advanced fuel technologies have the potential to reduce our reliance on imported energy, by turning unwanted waste products into valuable transport fuel.
Alongside the competition, the Department for Transport has also established a Transport Energy Taskforce to consider options for supporting advanced biofuels through policy mechanisms. We are also supporting a sub target at EU level.
Expressions of Interest are now being sought from potential bidders until 13 February 2015, short-listed projects will then be invited to submit full proposals.