20th April, Whitehaven News Column

layout_set_logoIt was a privilege to be able to visit Japan last week at the invitation of the British Ambassador.  The purpose of the delegation – including representatives of Sellafield Ltd and the Mayor of Copeland – was to visit the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility close to the the fifth anniversary of the great eastern Japanese earthquake, to see the remediation work underway, to speak to community representatives and people from the Japanese nuclear industry and most of all; to offer whatever assistance to Japan that we possibly can do.

Addressing the first international conference on Fukushima, I told the assembled nuclear experts from all over Japan and the world that our community stands ready to help the recovery in Fukushima in whatever way they might possibly require (if at all). I took with me a message of solidarity from the Sellafield workforce. Nuclear workers are not only the first line of safe nuclear operations, they are often its ultimate gurantor and, as was proven in Fukushima, they are also the last line of defence in times of crisis.

We know this because of our own nuclear history and there is little doubt that the nuclear industry now shapes (and has shaped) attitudes, opinions and our local culture as a whole in the same way that the coal, slate and iron ore mines used to do.

Solidarity is more than just a word. It means that we should stand together and in the ongoing efforts to remediate the Fukushima Daiichi site, our community would do well to stand wit he people of Japan and our nuclear workers the same.

This spirit of partnership and assistance can only be mutually beneficial for our mutual communities and our countries. Watch this space as more initiatives begin to grow from the recent delegation, but one initiative that would strengthen this effort would be if Copeland’s secondary schools could begin to offer additional qualifications in Japanese…stay tuned for an emerging plan.

Finally, Fukushima is an incredibly beautiful part of Japan.

Being on the other side of the world couldn’t stop news of the Junior Doctors’ strikes in England leaking through. It is absolutely tragic to witness Jeremy Hunt’s catastrophic handling of this industrial dispute of his making. Newly qualified doctors – paid for by you and me through our taxes – are now fleeing the NHS in droves. Sadly these people, amongst our brightest and best, aren’t just fleeing the NHS but the country. It’s already difficult enough to recruit medical professionals to areas like ours but now – as an explicit purpose of Conservative NHS policies – it is becoming even harder.

I again wrote to Jeremy Hunt about these issues (from Japan) last week. I have yet to receive a reply. This morning on my way to Parliament, I passed a group of good natured junior doctors outside of the Department of Health, stood next to an empty chair with the name ‘HUNT’ written across it.

Infamously, Hunt refuses to meet with or even speak with the medical professionals who are repeatedly telling him that his policies are wrecking the National Health Service. When it comes to securing the additional resources and money that the local Success Regime needs for our local health services, will Hunt even respond?

I’ve applied for further parliamentary debates on this. Jeremy Hunt can run, but he can’t hide.