As regular readers of the Herald will know, I recently sat down with the Parliamentary Ombudsman to discuss the issues around the age changes for women to receive their state pension.
They confirmed to me they would be beginning their preliminary procedural checks in the coming weeks. And that the key outcome available to them, if that is what’s found, would be maladministration, with recommendations which could include financial compensation.
I’m also pleased to inform you that I have just secured the commitment of my party’s leader, Sir Vince Cable, to support - as Liberal Democrat policy - whatever findings and recommendations made by the Parliamentary Ombudsman. This is important because, as their conclusions are not binding, we need to build a groundswell of political support at Westminster to ensure the Conservative government implement the Ombudsman’s conclusions. As a Party of just 12 MPs this may not sound as though it will carry much weight in parliament but with the help of WASPi women in Eastbourne and beyond we can hopefully persuade the other political parties to do the same. So, if you know an affected WASPi woman living in a Labour, SNP or DUP constituency, I urge you to ask they write to their MP urging them to join the Lib Dems in backing the Ombudsman’s eventual recommendations. If Labour in particular join our call, as the Official Opposition, it will put the government in the spotlight and make it much harder for them to ignore the Ombudsman’s proposals. Working together in Parliament on this will, I hope, lead to genuine progress for affected women across the United Kingdom.
Local resident, Mrs Gillian McKenzie, came to me a decade ago with shocking allegations about what she believed had gone on at the Gosport War Memorial NHS Hospital, particularly on the Ward run by Dr Jane Barton. The subsequent Gosport Inquiry, led by Bishop James Jones, into those claims concluded last month that at least 460 patients died after being given opiate drugs which led to their untimely death. Following the report’s release, I immediately wrote to the Prime Minister, Theresa May, urging her government begin the process of starting a criminal inquiry. This was five weeks ago.
Parliamentary protocol demands that the Prime Minister responds to an MP’s letter within 20 working days and it is now 25 days since I wrote to No 10 but still, at the time of writing, have not received a response. Consequently I raised this in Parliament early this week as a point of order. I was pleased the Speaker, John Bercow, shared his dissatisfaction that a reply had not been received, and hoped that by raising it in the House, the government would respond to my letter as a matter of urgency. Mrs McKenzie, and all the other relatives, demand and deserve justice. I believe the government has an absolute responsibility to take the necessary steps so that a criminal inquiry can be implemented into what went on at the hospital. Those responsible must face the consequences of their actions. I will continue pushing the PM and her government until they do the right thing. That’s it folks. Have a nice day and I hope to see you around town.