All Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs) are informal, cross-party interest groups. APPGs do not have any official status within Parliament, nor are they given any power or funding by it. They are run by and for Members of the Commons and Lords, mainly as a place for backbenchers to meet and discuss their various areas of interest. Many groups involve external individuals and organisations in their group’s administration and activities.
There are a huge number of APPGs which cover many and diverse topics, covering everything from Archaeology, to Multiple Sclerosis, to Women and Enterprise. Some APPGs focus on a particular country, whilst others look at particular issues such as Water and Sanitation in the Third World.
I am a member of a number of different APPGs, including:
- All-Party Parliamentary Group on Breast Cancer
- All-Party Parliamentary Disability Group
- All-Party Parliamentary Group on Financial Education for Young People
- All-Party Parliamentary Group on Global Education for All
- All-Party Parliamentary Group on Human Trafficking
- All-Party Parliamentary Group on Huntington’s Disease
- APPG for Justice for Equitable Life Policyholders
- All-Party Parliamentary Group on Learning Disability
- All-Party Parliamentary Group for Legal and Constitutional Affairs
- Libraries All-Party Parliamentary Group
- Mental Health All-Party Parliamentary Group
- Mobile Homes All-Party Parliamentary Group
- All-Party Parliamentary Opera Group
- All-Party Parliamentary Group on Park Homes
- St Helena APPG
- All-Party Parliamentary Group on Legal Aid
- All-Party Parliamentary Group on Archives and History
- All-Party Parliamentary Poland Group
Being a member of these groups enables me to contribute to topical discussions relating to these interest areas and learn more about the work and experiences of external organisations and service-users.
I am also an Officer of a number of APPGs, which involves greater responsibility in the running of the group and its direction.
I am currently the Vice-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Speech and Language Difficulties. This group’s purpose is to raise awareness that communication is a crucial life skill and that the ability to communicate is a basic human right; to increase awareness about communication disability and the impact this has on people’s lives; to highlight the importance of early identification and intervention; and to press for increased provision of speech and language therapy.
As part of my interest in Autism Spectrum Disorder, I am the Chair of the APPG on Autism. This is a very active group that has held a number of meetings relating to welfare reform, research, health and social care, and special educational needs. The aim of this APPG is to raise awareness of autism in Parliament, and to campaign and lobby for increased awareness and improved support for people with autism and their carers.
I have recently become Co-Chair of the All Party Group on the EU, which is aimed at promoting the business case for Britain’s membership of the EU, whilst promoting an agenda for practical reform and improvement to the single market in order to make it work more effectively for British businesses. As an MP for a town that does much of its trade with the EU, I believe that it is important to speak up for UK business in this way.
From 2010 to 2012 I was the Chair of the Gurkha Welfare Group, which aims to provide a forum to bring together supporters of and campaigners for the welfare of Gurkhas and Gurkha veterans.
As part of its work, this group has recently met with Andrew Robathan MP, Veterans Minister, William Shuttlewood OBE from the Gurkha Welfare Trust, Colonel Ian Rigden from the Headquarters Brigade of Gurkhas and Margaret Gilmour from the Ministry of Defence to talk about Gurkha issues in the UK and how the Gurkha communities may benefit from future support from these bodies. I have now stepped down from the Chair but continue to work with my local Gurkha community.
On health, I was from 2010 to 2012 the Joint-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Kidney Group. This group has been formed with the aim to improve understanding in Parliament of kidney disease and transplant medicine and promote improvements in the health and care services that are available to improve the health of people with renal failure.
This group has recently held an afternoon seminar on Kidney Disease and Transplantation rates in Culturally Diverse Groups, including Black and Minority Ethnic Groups.
Finally, I am Vice Chair for All Party Parliamentary Group on Cannabis and Children, which has the purpose of informing members of both Houses of Parliament and, using sound scientific and medical evidence, to raise awareness and stimulate debate about the impact of cannabis on children and young people. The Group is particularly concerned about the effects that modern forms of skunk, which are much more potent than the cannabis of 30 years ago, have on the brain development of young people, and psychosis. The Group has met to hear of the experiences of ex-users of cannabis to learn about the challenges that are faced to get clean again after a long addiction.