So that’s it. It’s done. The EU (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill has completed its passage through Parliament and will become law by the end of the week.
Amidst the blizzard of media coverage, it’s important to remember one thing: this Bill is about process, not outcome. It is simply designed to give Theresa May the legal power to invoke Article 50, following the Gina Miller litigation. It’s not about the negotiating priorities that lie ahead.
Those priorities were set out by Theresa May in her speech in Lancaster House. Her ambition is to forge a future for the UK as a global, outward-facing, internationalist country. Whatever my views about resolving up front the issue of EU migrants, I believe that her vision is the right one. Now let’s come together as a country to achieve it.
In other news, this week I led a debate in Parliament calling on the Government to fix a problem that is putting an unacceptable strain on our excellent GPs and nurse practitioners – the ballooning cost of insurance.
The majority of full-time GPs pay over £7,500 a year from their own pockets to maintain legal cover. One in seven pay over £10,000. Meanwhile, premiums are rising at over 10% per annum. One busy practice in Cheltenham told me that it faced a 17% annual increase to maintain its medico-legal cover. That’s completely unsustainable. Nurse practitioners too have to pay thousands of pounds, particularly if they prescribe.
That’s a problem because it risks putting off medical students who might otherwise want to join this area of medicine. That in turn creates a knock-on problem for the NHS. GPs play such a vital role in delivering care, and of course diverting patients – where appropriate – from hospital treatment. And they are under more pressure than ever before, particularly with an ageing population.
So in the debate I called on the Government to come up with a lasting solution for this issue. For GPs, nurses, as well as those patients who access primary care, this must addressed.
I can’t sign off this week without extending a warm welcome to the thousands of our horse racing friends who are in Cheltenham for the world’s greatest Jockey Club Festival (sorry Aintree). Best of luck for Friday’s Gold Cup.