Robert’s Weekly Article – 19th September 2018

On Sunday, I went to the Battle of Britain Sunday Service at Christ Church in Old Town. The service brought Swindon RAFA Members together for the annual commemoration of the events of 1940, in this the Centenary year of the Royal Air Force.

We remembered all those who fought, including Harold Starr, who was born in Swindon in 1914 and rose to be the leader of 253 Squadron. He was tragically killed at the height of the air battle on 31 August 1940, eight days before his 26th birthday – one of the 544 pilots of RAF Fighter Command who gave their lives in the struggle against the odds to prevent Nazi Germany overwhelming our air defences.

Bailing out after his Hurricane was hit at 15,000 feet in the skies over Kent, he was then machine gunned as he descended in his parachute when the pilots of three Messerschmitt Bf 109s came back for him.  His grave in Radnor Street cemetery is a poignant reminder of the sacrifice made by “The Few”.

I work closely with many small businesses here in Swindon. They play an important role in the local economy and I am keen to all that I can to support them, I was therefore pleased last week, when Small Business Minister, Kelly Tolhurst, put forward new laws to arm small businesses against unfair contracts that stop them raising money from unpaid invoices.

Currently, a small supplier’s contract with a larger company may prevent it from securing invoice finance from providers such as banks and other investors.

Under the new proposed laws, any such contractual restrictions entered into after 31 December 2018, with certain exceptions, would have no effect and could be disregarded by small businesses and finance providers, which will help stop larger businesses from abusing their market position.  I welcome these new measures, which are expected to provide a long-term boost to the UK economy estimated to be worth almost £1bn.

Last Friday, I spent the morning making a return visit to the Victoria Centre here next to GWH.  The unit provides mental health services for older people and has one of the largest research departments in the South West into new treatments for dementia.  I was pleased to meet with the hardworking and dedicated staff and community teams and learn more about the current work being carried out at the centre, including memory services. I would like to pay tribute to the team who have reduced waiting times in the past few years from 6 – 9 months to 6 weeks.

Five years ago, the UK hosted the first-ever G8 Dementia Summit, which set the explicit ambition to find a cure or disease-modifying therapy for dementia by 2025.  Since then, governments have adopted the first Global Action Plan on Dementia, during the World Health Assembly in May 2017.

In the UK we have done much to improve diagnosis rates, from one of the lowest to one of the highest in Europe. This matters because an early diagnosis can support patients to make lifestyle changes that slow the progress of the disease – and also help families make adjustments to make their dementia journey easier.

Finally, like many of us, I receive lots of phone calls from companies wrongly telling me I have been in an accident!  I give them the short shrift, but I worry about their effect on elderly and vulnerable people. I am glad that the Government has announced tough new measures to end the blight of these nuisance calls.

New powers, which came into force on 8th September, will mean that rogue companies making unsolicited calls related to personal injury claims could now be fined up to £500,000.  Previously people had to ‘opt-out’ of receiving such calls by registering with the free Telephone Preference Service or withdraw their consent while on the call.

However, the new powers will force the caller to make the necessary checks to make sure they have the recipient’s consent before calling.  Let’s hope these nuisance calls become a thing of the past.