Last Friday I joined all MPs present in the Commons for a ‘sitting Friday’ in a minute’s silence for those so barbarously murdered in Christchurch, New Zealand.
While New Zealand is on the far side of the world our links are close. The dispatch boxes at the heart of the Commons’ chamber were the gift of New Zealand, replacing those destroyed by wartime bombing.
There are many such emblematic links between us: the Crown, their vote to continue the use of the Union Flag as part of their own, the green benches of their parliamentarians. However the deeper links are the values we hold: democracy, the rule of law, tolerance.
In my experience New Zealand and other Commonwealth Parliaments look to Westminster with affection and often respect. I fear the latter may be being stretched to the limit at present and like the rest of the country I want us to get on with Brexit and move on!
Despite our sadness at the appalling events in New Zealand, and frustration with the current Parliamentary preoccupation, there is much ongoing in the UK to celebrate.
I was delighted to read this week that (at an 18 per cent reduction) mortality rates from breast cancer are falling faster in Britain than in any other major European country. Women aged 50-69 are most likely to benefit from this improvement. As breast cancer is the second most common cause of cancer deaths in women, after lung cancer, and that one person is diagnosed with breast cancer every 10 minutes, this dramatic improvement is extremely welcome.
Historically, the UK has had mortality rates higher than those in the rest of Europe. However British survival rates have doubled in the past 40 years and progress is being made on seven other major cancers too, including bowel, stomach, prostate and bladder cancer.
In common with all readers I have experienced the sadness of friends dying of cancer, including recently, but we can all welcome a gradual turning of the tide.
To maintain the progress we will need to reduce the incidence of cancer in the first place and increase early diagnosis.
‘Be Clear on Cancer’ is Public Health England’s campaign to drive awareness of the key symptoms of breast cancer and encourage an early response.