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Labour MP for Sefton Central Bill Esterson has welcomed a new report from the Council for the Protection for Rural England which suggests how derelict, brownfield land could be developed. 

Such development could go a long way towards protecting the countryside and reduce the need for building in the green belt in places like Formby, Thornton and Maghull, where developers have been putting forward bids for inclusion in Sefton’s Local Plan.

The CPRE has suggested that money should be found to help decontaminate derelict former industrial sites to make them more attractive to developers. It has also said that councils should not have to deliver all of the homes needed within their own boundaries by taking a regional approach to development.

Bill Esterson said: "The CPRE has suggested a number of very important changes to planning and development policy which would mean a very real shift to a brownfield first approach. This is very much what the last Labour government was doing with Housing Market Renewal and it is also what I will be pressing for once we are back in government. 

"A proper brownfield first approach would mean renovation of empty homes, building homes across local council boundaries and making sure that developers prioritise brownfield sites. This is a significant step towards protecting our green belt and it will be encouraging for everyone in Formby, Thornton, Lydiate, Maghull, Aintree and Melling who is worried about developers and speculators who are taking advantage of the deregulation of planning which has happened under the Tories and Lib Dems which has left our green belt open to attack. 

"We should protect our green belt which Labour created and which is defended in government. The CPRE has shown us a way forward."

The CPRE also gave evidence to the All Party Parliamentary Green Belt Group to show that the government’s planning reforms were ill-conceived and allowed developers to build in the green belt. 

As the CPRE told MPs, “Our evidence demonstrates that this policy has enabled developers to obtain planning permission for ‘off-Local Plan’ greenfield sites, while more appropriate, accessible and more sustainable brownfield sites remain undeveloped. “

According to the evidence unearthed by the CPRE: "Under rules in the National Planning Policy framework, land with planning permission is excluded from the calculations of five-year housing land supply. No matter how effective a local authority is at approving residential applications, developers can trigger even more permissions in more choice countryside locations by citing viability issues. We think that land with planning permission should be included in the five-year housing land supply to stop valued countryside from being lost."

Labour MP, Bill Esterson, said: "I completely agree with the CPRE. They have done the work and are totally committed to protecting the countryside and our green belt. If anyone understands the complex issues of planning and how the government’s policies are the biggest threat to the green belt, it is the CPRE.

"The CPRE says that land which has planning permission should be included in the housing numbers. I would go further and include empty properties which can be renovated. 

"Sefton has an empty homes strategy which shows how over a thousand homes could be brought back into use. The changes put forward by the CPRE and the empty homes strategy could and should be enough to take much of the pressure away from building on the green belt. 

"Sadly the Tories and Lib Dems simply do not allow this and changed the planning rules to allow developers to build on prime greenfield sites to maximise profits.

"I will be fighting for a return to a proper brownfield first policy. This will cover all of the recommendations made by the CPRE. 

"The CPRE have a great track record fighting for our countryside and we should listen to them. I will do what I can to make sure the next Labour government does just that."

Sefton Central Labour MP Bill Esterson says Council for Protection of Rural England has shown how we can protect countryside from development

Labour MP for Sefton Central Bill Esterson has welcomed a new report from the Council for the Protection for Rural England which suggests how derelict, brownfield land could be developed. ...

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Hundreds of cancer patients in Sefton Central are being put at risk as Tory-led NHS cuts force them to wait too long for treatment.

New figures released by health watchdog Monitor found that hospitals, including Southport and Aintree, have failed to meet life-saving targets of 62 days for cancer treatment.

Hospitals began treatment for just 84% of patients referred by their GP for cancer treatment. For those receiving outpatient care, there has also been a worrying rise in the number of patients who waited more than 62 days to start treatment.

The alarming news comes as separate figures reveal the Conservative-led government has slashed almost £800million in funding for cancer treatment. Nationally, the number of NHS Trusts unable to meet cancer treatment targets have trebled in a single year.

Labour MP for Sefton Central, Bill Esterson said: "These aren’t just figures on a page. When we talk about targets being missed, it means that the Tories are making people face long, agonising waits for cancer treatment. It means that hundreds of families in Sefton Central are being put through hell waiting for treatment for their loved ones.

"This isn’t about the hardworking hospital staff who strive day in and day out to look after us. This is about a £3billion top-down reorganisation of our NHS from David Cameron, a cut in funding for cancer services, 1,200 nurses’ jobs axed in the North West alone, and services being cherry-picked for privatisation. 
"It’s not our hospitals, it’s David Cameron and his Conservatives who are to blame for this shocking situation.

"This is the first time cancer treatment waiting times have been breached since 2009. Cameron is letting his private friends take over NHS services, but Labour will put patients before profit. Labour will repeal the NHS Act that has brought disaster to our NHS. We’ll introduce a mansion tax on homes worth more than £2 million to pay for 8,000 new GPs and 20,000 extra nurses. It’s real support, not privatisation and cuts, that our hospitals need to give life-saving care."

"Local cancer patients' lives at risk" Labour MP Bill Esterson warns as Tories' NHS cuts force Sefton Central patients to wait longer for treatment

Hundreds of cancer patients in Sefton Central are being put at risk as Tory-led NHS cuts force them to wait too long for treatment.

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Sefton Central Labour MP Bill Esterson said he will continue to push for the government to work to cut instances of drinking during pregnancy, following his debate into Foetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder in Parliament today.

Bill moved the debate in Westminster Hall after the issue was raised with him by his wife Caroline who, as a member of Sefton Adoption Panel, attended a seminar on the subject of FASD.

During the debate, Bill called on the government to introduce clear advice on drinking for expectant mothers and he called for the introduction of labelling on bottle and cans warning about the health dangers to unborn babies.

Bill told MPs: "It was clear from the research that the only safe limit for drinking during pregnancy was for women not to drink at all. So when the minister winds up I would like her to confirm what the government’s advice is for pregnant women. Is the advice not to drink at all or not? Also, can the minister tell us what actions the government is taking to make sure that women and their partners are fully aware of the risks and that society as a whole is aware of the risks. I would also like the minister to consider the potential for labelling of alcohol products as happens in France.

"The government says that women should not drink at all in pregnancy but it also says that for women who don’t want to stop drinking alcohol altogether, they should only have one or two units of alcohol a week. As there is no safe limit for drinking during pregnancy, it seems wrong for government to be allowing any leeway in its advice. Remember damage caused to a child during pregnancy is a matter of child protection. What is the right approach to protecting children from the damage which can be done by alcohol during pregnancy?

"When a pregnant woman drinks, the alcohol in her blood passes freely through the placenta into the developing baby’s blood. Because the foetus does not have a fully developed liver, it cannot filter out the toxins from the alcohol as an adult can. Instead, the alcohol circulates in the baby’s blood system. It can destroy brain cells and damage the nervous system of the foetus at any point during the nine months of pregnancy."

Babies born with FASD can suffer from learning difficulties and suffer from attention deficits, memory issues, hyperactivity and poor-problem solving skills. They can also suffer birth defects, including smaller head circumference, heart problems, limb damage, kidney damage, damage to the structure of the brain, eye problems, hearing problems and specific facial characteristics.

Bill said: "At the severe end of the spectrum, there are 7,000 live births of children with FAS each year, with three or four times as many babies being born with FASD in the UK. There is however, suggestion of under diagnosis as symptoms are similar to those resulting from conditions such as ADHD or ASD.

"Neglect of children who end up in care or adopted can also produce behaviours which are similar to those seen in FASD. The combined effect among children in care of neglect and FASD can make life very difficult indeed for children and those around them. Diagnosis among some groups can also be difficult.

"As the parent of two adopted children, I have no idea whether their birth mother drank during pregnancy. As a result, the behaviours which are consistent with FASD which my children exhibit could be due to neglect, alcohol consumption during pregnancy or both yet there is no way of knowing."

Bill is calling on the government to give concise 'no drinking while pregnant' advice, to introduce a programme of awareness, starting in schools, and to introduce compulsory health earning labels on alcoholic drinks.

Speaking after the debate, Bill said: "The steps I want the government to take are clear.

"There needs to be clear official advice from government to expectant mothers to abstain from alcohol altogether. There needs to be greater awareness and education starting in schools where the dangers of drinking in pregnancy is highlighted. And we need compulsory health labelling on alcoholic drinks aimed specifically at expectant mothers.

"These are three basic steps which need to be taken, and which are already being taken in other countries, such as Canada and France where FASD is already taken seriously.

"Britain needs to catch up. We need to take Foetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder seriously. And we need to do everything we can to cut the often devastating effects that drinking alcohol when pregnant can have on an unborn baby's life for years to come."


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ENDS


Bill's speech in full:


(It was clear from the research that the only safe limit for drinking during pregnancy was for women not to drink at all. So when the minister winds up I would like her to confirm what the government’s advice is for pregnant women. Is the advice not to drink at all or not? Also, can the minister tell us what actions the government is taking to make sure that women and their partners are fully aware of the risks and that society as a whole is aware of the risks. I would also like the minister to consider the potential for labelling of alcohol products as happens in France.)

The government says that women should not drink at all in pregnancy but it also says that for women who don’t want to stop drinking alcohol altogether, they should only have 1 or 2 units of alcohol a
week. As there is no safe limit for drinking during pregnancy, it seems wrong for government to be allowing any leeway in its advice. Remember damage caused to a child during pregnancy is a matter of child protection. What is the right approach to protecting children from the damage which can be done by alcohol during pregnancy?

The reason I stated that there is no safe limit for drinking during pregnancy is that according to research by the National Organisation on Foetal Alcohol Syndrome UK there is no way to know for sure the impact that drinking alcohol might have on an unborn baby. The same point is made by the British Pregnancy Advisory Service.

According to NOFAS, Alcohol could have different effects at different times during pregnancy, and it might affect one baby but not another.

What we do know is that heavy drinking and binge drinking during pregnancy could increase the risk of foetal* alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD).

At any stage of pregnancy, a woman can benefit her baby by avoiding alcohol. 

What is FASD?

Foetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) can be caused if a woman drinks alcohol during pregnancy.

FASD is an umbrella term that covers foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorders (ARND), alcohol-related birth defects (ARBD), foetal alcohol effects (FAE) and partial foetal alcohol syndrome (pFAS).

When a pregnant woman drinks, the alcohol in her blood passes freely through the placenta into the developing baby’s blood. Because the foetus does not have a fully developed liver, it cannot filter out the toxins from the alcohol as an adult can. Instead, the alcohol circulates in the baby’s blood system. It can destroy brain cells and damage the nervous system of the foetus at any point during the nine months of pregnancy.

What effect does alcohol have?

The effects can be mild or severe, ranging from reduced intellectual ability and attention deficit disorder to heart problems and even death. Many children experience serious behavioural and social
difficulties that last a lifetime.

Although alcohol can affect the development of cells and organs, the brain and nervous systems are particularly vulnerable. We can’t see the neurological brain damage that is caused, but there are a number of invisible characteristics in babies born with FASD, which include:

• attention deficits

• memory deficits

• hyperactivity

• difficulty with abstract concepts (eg maths, time and money)

• poor problem-solving skills

• difficulty learning from consequences

• confused social skills.

There are also a number of possible physical effects, including:

• smaller head circumference

• heart problems

• limb damage

• kidney damage

• damage to the structure of the brain

• eye problems

• hearing problems

• specific facial characteristics.

How many people are affected?

Some studies suggest that 1% of live births in Europe are affected by FASD. Many children born with FASD are not diagnosed, or do not receive a correct diagnosis, which makes calculating the prevalence of the condition extremely difficult.

Because there is no proven safe level for alcohol consumption during pregnancy, the only risk-free approach is to avoid alcohol completely – during pregnancy, when trying to conceive and when breastfeeding.

In looking at whether a child has FAS, it is also true that they can be very loving, friendly, gregarious, outgoing and trusting. All good traits but without a sense of balance, can often leave them open to
being taken advantage of and abused by others.

It appears that there is no cure but there are actions that can help.

Early diagnosis

Support for families

Health monitoring

Therapy and medication

Support and safety at home

Strong boundaries and routines

But flexibility from carers

Simple instructions

Training and support in social skills

What can be done?

Prevention is key. Better awareness so fewer women drink in pregnancy. More advice and support for vulnerable groups of young women. Drinking among young women has increased. Better understanding of those affected. Better support.

On the issue of greater awareness, the select committee is about to start an enquiry into PSHE. What better subject for children at school than to learn about the dangers of drinking in pregnancy.

Al Aynsley Green published a letter on Thursday in which he described what happens in Canada.

He describes sitting in a class of 7 year olds: “What do you never drink when you have a baby in your tummy?” asks the facilitator. “We never drink alcohol, Miss,” chorus the children.

I move on to a conference in Toronto on prenatal alcohol exposure organised by NeuroDevNet for several hundred scientists, clinicians, lawyers, parliamentarians and lay people. 16 year-old Emily (not her real name) has severe learning difficulties but stands up alongside her twin sister describing courageously what it is like to be affected by alcohol drunk by their Russian birth mother before being adopted by her Canadian family.  Emily describes social isolation, bullying, fidgeting, impulsivity, distractibility and loud noise intolerance with poor concentration that makes learning difficult.

Canadians take seriously the impact of alcohol before birth. Federal and Provincial Governments are convinced that prenatal alcohol causing Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is the most important preventable cause of severe brain damage in childhood affecting affluent families as well as Aboriginal people. Less badly affected children exhibit poor behaviour in their schools and communities, populating their prisons.

They express incredulity that the economic let alone the human cost of the syndrome has not been grasped by politicians in England.

We have known about the dangers of alcohol to the foetus for a long time. “Behold thou shalt conceive and bear a son and now drink no wine or strong drink, Judges 13.7”

Aristotle wrote about the effects of women drinking during pregnancy.

Sir Francis Bacon advised women no to drink during pregnancy. The gin epidemic saw a rise in birth defects in Britain in 1700s.

The infant death rate was 20% higher in alcoholoic women in prison in 1899.

Distinct facial characteristics were noted by French researcher Dr Paul Lemoine who studied families where mothers drank a lot in pregnancy.

The term foetal alcohol syndrome was used by English researchers Jones and Smith in 1973.

Prevention and clinical work in Canada, US and Australia

In 2007, Lord Mitchell PMB mandatory for alcohol sellers to display warning labels. We saw success when smoking in cars with children present went through. Can we do the same?

At the severe end of the spectrum, there are 7000 live births of children with FAS each year, with 3 or 4 times as many babies being born with FASD in the UK. There is however, suggestion of under
diagnosis as symptons are similar to those resulting from conditions such as ADHD or ASD. Neglect of children who end up in care or adopted can also produce behaviours which are similar to those seen in FASD. The combined effect among children in care of neglect and FASD can make life very difficult indeed for children and those around them. Diagnosis among some groups can also be difficult. As the parent of two adopted children, I have no idea whether their birth mother drank during pregnancy. As a result, the behaviours which are consistent with FASD which my children exhibit could be due to neglect, alcohol consumption during pregnancy or both yet there is no way of knowing.

The education and development needs of this group of children are very specialised and I would refer the minister to the research and ask her to look further at what is needed and just how demanding it is to enable children with FASD to achieve their potential given their difficulties in learning and in relating to others.

As NOFAS said in 2009, “Teachers and teaching support staff will undoubtedly meet children with FASD in their classrooms. They need to know how to respond to their learning needs effectively, enable them to maximise their potential, improve their life changes and take their places alongside their mainstream peers as citizens. FASD now accounts for the largest, non genetic group of children with learning difficulties/disabilities. The difficulties that children face in the classroom epitomise that much used phrase ‘complex needs’. Their unusual style of learning and their extreme challenging behaviour in out of the experience of many teachers and support staff and as there is a significant shortfall in guidance for teachers on how to educate children with FASD in the UK, teachers find themselves ‘pedagogically bereft.”

Returning to the main element of my remarks. How to reduce the number of children with FASD. Advice which currently says you may want to stop really could and should be harder hitting. Drinking while pregnant will harm your baby just as smoking does.

I mentioned the PMB introduced by Lord Mitchell in 2007.

In 2005, the French government made it a legal requirement for alcohol to have a warning for pregnant women displayed on the container.

The Health minister (Dan Poulter) was quoted in 2012 as saying that there should be better warnings available about the dangers of alcohol. He and others in the medical profession have warned of the
dangers for some time including the dangers posed by drinking during pregnancy. He called for greater awareness to be publicised while a member of the Health Select Committee. As a minister he is in a better position to act than he was in 2012.

Last week, the British Pregnancy Advisory Service raised concerns about the impact on pregnant women of recent publicity about this issue. The BPAS said that women are considering abortions because of the fear that they may have harmed their unborn child before realising they are pregnant. The BPAS stated that occasional binge drinking was unlikely to cause harm to their baby. It is true that binge drinking may not harm a baby. The trouble is that there is no way of knowing which baby will be harmed and which will not be harmed. The concern raised by the BPAS should of course not be taken lightly. BPAS say that media coverage has caused panic among some pregnant women. But equally, there is a danger that playing down the risks of damage from FASD could lead to some women continuing to drink thinking it is safe when it is not. BPAS point out that half of pregnancies are unplanned so many women do not know they are pregnant. They are right to point out that this means many women will be drinking alcohol while pregnant for this reason. I agree that women should not be alarmed as there is nothing that can be done about what has already happened. However, if greater awareness of the risks can reduce the number of women drinking in future, while pregnant, this must be a step forward. I look forward to hearing from the minister how she thinks this balance can best be struck.

Lord Mitchell in 2008 proposed labels on alcoholic drinks should say “Avoid alcohol if pregnant or trying to conceive”. This will not necessarily help the women referred to by BPAS who are not planning to become pregnant but it will help those who are planning a pregnancy and I wonder how many other women will consider whether they should drink alcohol if they see this advice and how many men may reiterate the advice. This is not just about women. Men have a role to play in supporting women and education of the dangers should target men as well. Lord Mitchell also gave the example of tobacco labelling as a good reason for making labelling a legal requirement not a voluntary code. The damage done to children by alcohol and the damage done by smoking are both very important and deserving of the maximum attention. The minister supported the legislation banning smoking in vehicles with children present as she understood the need for decisive action. I hope she will agree when it comes to labelling of alcohol.

Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and Foetal Alcohol Syndrome are completely preventable intellectual and developmental deficits in individuals, resulting from maternal consumption during pregnancy. Again thanks to NOFAS for the words but has the time come for greater action to reduce the number of children who suffer from FASD, to ensure that women in particular have greater awareness of the risks and to ensure that children, families, school staff and all those trying to cope with the results of FASD have more of the support that they need.

Some women become pregnant and do not drink alcohol. They are giving the best protection against FASD. However some women drink while pregnant, unaware of the risks and some drink while pregnant, unaware they are pregnant. While a further group choose to drink while pregnant, aware of the risks. Different strategies are required for each group but it is clear reducing the number of women who drink alcohol while pregnant is the right way forward.

I have suggested labelling, greater awareness and education at school. I look forward to hearing the suggestions from the minister.

Sefton Central Labour MP Bill Esterson calls on government to introduce compulsory health warnings for alcohol to help cut instances of Foetal Alcohol Syndrome

Sefton Central Labour MP Bill Esterson said he will continue to push for the government to work to cut instances of drinking during pregnancy, following his debate into Foetal Alcohol...

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