This week I have been to speak at a conference for the Shared Lives network

In a time when isolation and loneliness, in a more mobile and separated society, and an ageing population, is emerging as a serious concern, the Shared Lives Schemes are creating innovative projects and schemes for living in community.

The challenges of care are growing – 2 million more people will be over 85 by 2030. Studies have shown that looking after and supporting people by having some years living with family keeps them fitter – but it’s not always a practical solution for every family. I am not suggesting that families provide nursing care, but more years of fitness keep people healthier until they need care, and being at home ensures that the NHS and your local councils have more resources to spend when people really support and assistance.

Read more: Burt on the Benches November 2015 - Shared Lives

Now the nights are drawing in, I have had time to reflect on how much I have enjoyed the summer in NE Bedfordshire. I am hugely privileged to be invited to many events and occasions; cricket matches, summer fetes and fairs, sports events and charity walks and runs. All these events only happen because people just like you get involved in their community, and give their time and energy to planning and project managing some really complex events. I have had several conversations about the challenges of putting up marquees in the wind/rain/sun, and even more on how keeping the sponge cakes wasp-free is a must! There is excellent time and effort going into all the classes at a show, beautiful flowers, giant vegetables and wonderful crafts, and not to forget the judges.

Read more: Villager Magazine October 2015 - Good people volunteering

No one can claim that British politics is dull or unpredictable. The election of a new Leader of the Opposition has been a nice surprise for commentators and public alike who despaired that the two main parties had seemingly become almost indistinguishable compared with the past. No more.

I am the only MP now in the Commons who was a Councillor in Haringey at the same time as Jeremy. We were both elected as MPs in 1983, and have continued a friendly relationship ever since. I can vouch for the personal courteous way he works, and puts a case to a Government Minister of another persuasion. I can also vouch for his longstanding commitment to a set of causes and beliefs which are deeply minority interests, rejected endlessly by his colleagues in the Labour Party.

Read more: Burt on the Benches October 2015 - THE JEREMY CORBYN I KNEW

I know constituents and others are concerned about the Commons consideration of the Private Members Bill concerning Off Patents Drugs yesterday, and my own role as the Government Minister on duty.


The Government’s determination, and mine, is to improve access both to drugs and treatment. This is seen in its work on cancer over the past few years and shown in innovations such as the creation of the Cancer Drugs Fund, now with an increased budget of some £340m per year.

Read more: Off Patent Drugs Bill November 2015

While I was at the Foreign Office as Minister for the Middle East, I would often give talks about my role, and was regularly challenged about why what was going on in the region ’had anything to do with us’- why were we seemingly ‘so keen to get involved’? Amongst a number of answers I would give, from why a more peaceful world was always in the UK’s interest, and why as a member of NATO and the UN Security Council we had certain obligations, I also said that we were no longer isolated from what happened abroad. It is a small world, and bad things, unchecked, would reach us, and whether or not we ‘intervened’, the decision had consequences.

Read more: Burt on the Benches September 2015 Small World