Focus: Policy and Politics - Question Time - Shailesh Vara, Tory MP for North West Cambridgeshire

What has happened to the Breast Cancer Bill?

It is still technically listed for a second reading debate in the House of Commons on 3 March, but in reality it isn't likely to be debated.

It had its second reading on 20 January but unfortunately the Government talked it out. The Government was trying hard to ensure the Bill didn't go any further.

What were you trying to achieve with the Bill?

At the moment, free breast cancer screening is offered to women between the ages of 50 and 70, once every three years. What I wanted to do was extend the offer of free mammograms to women between the ages of 45 and 75.

Why?

I believe prevention is better than cure. At the upper end of the age range, women are leading healthier and longer lives, but the chances of getting breast cancer increase with age.

At the lower end, you don't have to be 50 to get breast cancer. It is a lot cheaper to deal with breast cancer when it is identified in its early stages rather than when it has reached a more advanced stage.

What do you think of the answers you received from the Government?

The Government talked about cost-effectiveness, but the other argument it presented was that there is an absence of resources. That is very unconvincing.

If the Government can speak of building 100 more hospitals in the next 10 years, there's no reason why it can't commit to a 10-year programme to ensure more women have breast cancer screening.

How can this be taken forward?

I do not intend to let the matter rest. We need to have as many charities, medical experts and people in public office as possible speak up on the issue and ensure that it is brought to the regular attention of Government ministers.

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