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CIEH gears up for election

William Hatchett20/04/2017 - 14:00

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Theresa May: election
Theresa May: election

CIEH has pledged to present the UK’s new government with a manifesto of environmental health priorities, following the general election.

Tony Lewis, CIEH head of policy, told EHN Extra: ‘The “snap election” called by prime minister, Theresa May on 8 June doesn’t give us much time. But we’ll be using our membership network to produce key messages ready for delivery to the new government, as soon as it is known. Our manifesto and the subsequent campaigning will have three main themes. They will be improving everyday lives, reducing burdens on primary healthcare and ensuring appropriate service provision.’ Mr Lewis said that following changes to CIEH’s policy making process to adopt a more ‘bottom up’ approach, communities of practice and expert advisory groups have been formed, or will soon be formed, covering food, air quality, housing, health and safety and Brexit.

He commented: ‘Our communities have been carefully chosen to reflect the campaigning areas that we need to focus our energies on. They include Brexit because it will have profound overarching implications for environmental health, affecting members in all sectors for many years ahead.’

He said that the manifesto would make recommendations in each of the areas covered by the communities, in each case designed to ensure the health and wellbeing of the public and that long fought-for protections are not reduced: ‘In food, we have a potentially radically shake-up of food safety, going hand in hand with leaving Europe with its implications for border controls.Health and safety and the environment are also protected and regulated by EU laws and we’ll be making it clear to the new government what should be kept or, in some cases, what can be enhanced and improved.

‘Housing law does not come under the EU. However, the poor state if the UK’s housing stock and the insecurity of tenants are matters of great concern, affecting the health and wellbeing of many thousands of adults and children. These issues will certainly figure in manifesto too.’ Mr Lewis said that the role of environmental health interventions in reducing public expenditure will be one of the strands of the manifesto: ‘There are many examples. Helping to give people healthy food choices, in order to reduce obesity, Type 2 diabetes and heart disease, is one. That could save the NHS millions.

‘In housing, we know that addressing category one and two hazards, including cold, plays a key role in the health and well-being of tenants. Addressing safety and well-being in the workplace also has the potential to significantly reduce the burden on primary health care. At a time when social care, particularly for elderly people, is placing huge pressures on budgets and there are not enough NHS beds, such low-cost interventions must surely be high on our list of national priorities. It will be important to make a persuasive case for them.’

Mr Lewis said that on the UK’s poor air quality, CIEH has already laid the groundwork for the manifesto. Following a motion submitted to its annual general meeting last summer, CIEH surveyed its members for their views, inviting them to participate in an advisory panel. The panel has already advised on priorities and tactics, leading to a new and comprehensive policy statement on air quality.

The statement calls on government to introduce a new Clean Air Act and for a new air quality strategy from Defra. It also calls for joined-up policies in transport and infrastructure and for a national move towards zero emission vehicles. These measures, says CIEH, should be urgently accompanied by increased road duties and scrappage schemes, to get older, more polluting vehicles off the road.

Mr Lewis said: ‘There have already been many outputs from our new approach to policy and public affairs. Some of these are behind the scenes. They include linking with all party Parliamentary groups, writing and co-signing letters to MPs, ministers and the prime minister and working with experts to scope what should be contained in new post-Brexit laws food safety and environmental legislation.

‘The election presents us with a great opportunity to draw all of this important work together. Rather than telling members what we think here at the centre, we’ll be using their knowledge and expertise to formulate our positions. It’s going to be hard work, but we will relish the challenge.’ There will be more news on how members can become involved in the election manifesto in EHN and future issues of Member Connect. 

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