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Health Secretary Attacks Unions Over Ambulance Strikes, Home Secretary Faces MP Grilling, Gender Reform Vote In Scottish Parliament

Steve Barclay said the three unions striking today “refused to work” with the government (Alamy)

4 min read

Health Secretary Steve Barclay has accused unions of "consciously" inflicting harm on patients, claiming they have not made sufficient contingency plans during the ambulance driver strikes.

Around 25,000 ambulance workers in England and Wales are taking industrial action on Wednesday in a dispute over pay. 

Barclay met with representatives of the unions on Tuesday and he wrote in The Telegraph: “They promised that each ambulance trust where their members are striking would have sufficient cover to respond to the most serious emergencies. 

“Yet even on the eve of the walkout, the cover arrangements were changing and the national picture was not clear. Ambulance unions have taken a conscious choice to inflict harm on patients.”

He said that the NHS contingency plans will not cover all 999 calls and that the unclear plans have made it “almost impossible” for the government to arrange the deployment of military personnel to take over the wheels of ambulances. 

Asked whether his comments might hinder negotiations with the unions, Barclay told BBC Breakfast on Wednesday that the three unions striking today “refused to work” with the government on a national level. 

GMB union national officer Rachel Harrison told the BBC she found the health secretary’s comment that workers were choosing to cause harm to patients offensive. 

“It’s really insulting that the secretary of state has said that," she said.

“They have not taken the decision to take strike action lightly. They feel they have been forced into this position because year after year the government has failed to listen to them.

Home Secretary says “high number” of people claim to be children to seek asylum

Home Secretary Suella Braverman
Suella Braverman previously faced criticism when she struggled to explain how a teenage orphan could legally seek asylum in the UK (Alamy)

Home Secretary Suella Braverman is facing questions at a Home Office Select Committee over her plans to reduce immigration to the UK. 

Asked by peer Baroness Hamwee how the Home Office would ensure child migrants are looked after, Braverman said the department has a duty to reflect the needs of children, but added: “We have a high number of people who claim to be children, but on closer inspection, don’t turn out to be.”

According to official figures, around 20 per cent of people who said they were unaccompanied children while claiming asylum in the UK were later found to be adults between January 2018 and March 2022.

Braverman faced criticism at a previous committee in November when she struggled to explain how a teenage orphan fleeing persecution could legally arrive in the UK to claim asylum.

At today’s committee, she explained there are two routes from someone to seek asylum in the UK if they already have family here, and that through the asylum family route, spouses and children under 18 can enter the country.

Scottish Parliament casting final votes on gender reform

Trans rights protestors outside Scottish Parliament
Supporters of the measures argue they will improve life for trans people (Alamy)

Members of the Scottish Parliament are casting their final votes on the changes to long-debated gender recognition reforms.

The voting on the Gender Reform Bill’s various amendments began on Tuesday, but have continued into Wednesday after debates continued past midnight. 

It has been six years since the Scottish Government announced its intention to overhaul rules relating to transgender people.

It aims to make it easier and faster for trans people to change their legally recognised gender, bringing in a system of self-identification and allowing 16 and 17-year-olds to acquire a gender recognition certificate (GRC).

Changes in the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill also end the need for a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria to gain the certification and reduces the amount of time a person must spend living as their acquired gender before application from two years to three months.

Supporters of the measures argue they will improve the lives of trans people, and that they amount to a small, administrative shift and will not affect the rights of biological women and girls.

However, opponents say that the proposals lack sufficient safeguarding to prevent abuse of the system and make it harder to ensure women-only services and spaces are maintained for biological women and girls.

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