SARAH WOLLASTON: End to laws that discriminate
LAST Friday, Parliament came a step closer to scrapping laws which discriminate against those with mental illness.
At present the law prevents anyone who has a past history of serious mental illness who is voluntarily taking medication, even if they are fully well, from sitting on a Jury.
It also sets mental illness apart as if it were more serious than physical illness in considering a person's fitness to be a company director or even an MP.
The Bill, if successful in its passage through Parliament, will set this right and send a powerful message that people can and do recover from mental illness.
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We should be encouraging people to have the confidence to seek help if they are depressed rather than be fearful of the long-term consequences.
One in four people will suffer from some form of mental health problem at some point in their lives and I feel it is important that everyone is open and honest about this issue.
A previous experience does not make a person unpredictable or dangerous and it is right for Parliament to make that absolutely clear.
The Mental Health Discrimination Bill would not force anyone with a mental illness to sit on a jury but if well enough to do so it would give them the opportunity to be treated like everyone else.
Anyone may be excused from jury service if they are medically unfit but the Bill will get rid of the discriminatory regulations that set mental illness apart as if it were somehow more dangerous.
LAST week, I spoke in the dairy farming debate in Westminster Hall to ask who cares about the people who feed the nation and care for our countryside?
Farmers work long, unsociable hours in all weathers and often in isolation.
They are also at particular risk of suicide and it is important for everyone to recognise the particular stresses they face as a result of unsustainably low milk prices and the remorseless spread of bovine TB.
Volunteers from the Farm Crisis Network (FCN) and Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (RABI) can help but farmers need our understanding and support.
Before the election I promised to stand up for our farming community and however unpopular, to help to tackle bovine TB.
The repeated culling of cows, particularly the shooting of in-calf cows, often from cherished pedigree herds that can be traced back for generations, is causing great stress, depression and hardship for farmers.
There is also the consideration that unless action is taken we will continue to see this disease spread to previously disease free badger populations, livestock and increasingly to other animals including cats and dogs, across the rest of the UK.
I know that many people will oppose the pilot badger culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire.
If the further pilots over a wider area to get rid of the so called 'edge effects' show that culling does not help to control TB, why would anyone want to roll this out to Devon?
The original studies were flawed and it was wholly wrong for the last Government to have allowed this terrible disease to get out of control.
Five-hundred and ninety-nine Devon cows were culled in 1998 but by the time Labour left office the number killed in 2010 was 5,761.
New herd incidences increased in Devon alone from 191 in 1998 to 797 in 2010.
Every new herd breakdown costs £30,000 of which £20,000 is paid for by you, the taxpayer and £10,000 by farmers.
Last year, bovine TB cost taxpayers a total of £126.9million.
I support vaccination trials alongside the culling pilots and if they work better then that should be the way forward.
In the meantime, we must balance concern for wildlife with concern for our farmers and their cows, answer the questions about how to control this disease and make sure we get a grip on TB before it sweeps beyond the South West and Wales to devastate farming families elsewhere.
It is also important to protect our farmers from the mindless prejudice and vandalism that can result from irresponsible reporting.
IT is hugely disappointing that Wreck the World was unsuccessful in its bid to sink the Ark Royal as a diving wreck off the coast of Torbay.
As a diving site she would have generated considerable interest and income for the Bay.
Unfortunately, the tender evaluation committee's decision is final but we do need further clarification about why Torbay's bid was placed fifth overall particularly as the Minister, Phillip Dunne, has referred to the chance to bid for a Type-22 frigate in the future.
Clearly that would not be as iconic as the Ark Royal but I'm told it would be less complicated to make safe and maintain for those diving the wreck in the future.
IF you wish to meet with me I will be holding a surgery on Friday, September 28, in Totnes from 10.30am until 12.30pm and a CSA surgery from 2.30pm unitl 5pm.
I will also be holding an open meeting in Townstal on Friday, September 21, from 7pm until 9pm.
To arrange an appointment for a surgery, call Nina Smith on 01803 868378.