I chaired the final three evidence sessions of the All Party Parliamentary Group's enquiry into early diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. We heard from some really inspirational people - surgeons and clinical specialists whose dedication to their profession is awesome, survivors and carers who gave moving, inspirational personal stories, charities passionate about making a difference and policy makers determined to build on everything that's going on and find a way to transform outcomes for this disease.
In the end it was obvious that my question to the Prime Minister would shine a spotlight on this awful disease. A disease for whom outcomes have been stuck for a generation. My constituent Kevin had no brighter prospect of surviving pancreatic cancer than his mother who died 40 years earlier from the disease.
I asked the PM to champion increased spending on pancreatic cancer research that currently lags significantly behind research on other cancers. Afterwards I was overwhelmed by the volume of people getting in touch from across the country by email, facebook and twitter thanking me raising an issue so close to their hearts and sharing their personal stories of the impact of this dreadful disease on them and their families. It was a very humbling experience and a reminder that battling away on sometimes unfashionable issues is important not only in itself but for the change it can eventually bring.
In the wake of this the rest of the week looks a bit humdrum. It included a meeting of local MPs with the Humber LEP and joining a gathering of all the great and the good in manufacturing at the EEF annual conference. Both were opportunities to bang the drum for both steel and our local area.
The positive news that Peter Bernsher - someone with 30 years experience of the industry currently working for Austrian steel and industrials group Voestalpine - has been appointed Chief Executive of British Steel is another welcome sign of progress. I look forward to hearing more about British Steel's plans at a gathering of stakeholders this Wednesday at the Scunthorpe plant.
A sub-regional business with local supply chains facing current difficulties due to potential changes in Government rules for biofuel mix is Vivergo. I got the Transport Minister to agree to meet with local MPs to discuss our concerns and then had a storm-Doris-affected journey back to Scunthorpe - five hours but made it!
I chaired the final three evidence sessions of the All Party Parliamentary Group's enquiry into early diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. We heard from some really inspirational people - surgeons and...
One of the less visible things Parliament does that is build relationships with other parliaments across the world as part of a contribution to greater understanding and peace. Last week I found myself on a parliamentary delegation to Europe's newest country, Kosovo. Indeed only South Sudan has been added to the world's list of nations since Kosovo declared independence 9 years ago.
Kosovo is one of 7 countries born out of the former Yugoslavia, an entity created by the Great Powers after the Great War. Two of the countries, Slovenia and Croatia are enjoying relative prosperity as part of the EU but challenges remain for the others: Bosnia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Serbia and Kosovo all of whom aspire to EU membership! Serbia's aggressive Balkan wars during the 1990s came to a climax in the 1998/9 armed conflict in Kosovo when our television screens were filled with the horrors of that war. It was intervention by the UK and US - bombings of Serbian forces - that led to an abrupt end to the conflict with NATO and EU peacekeepers put in to secure the peace.
Two decades are yet to pass from these awful events in which Serbs and Kosovan Albanians were both perpetrators and victims. Much has been achieved. Kosovo is a safe place - we felt very comfortable walking around Pristina its capital city. But it is only an infant state that celebrated its 9th birthday while we were there with speeches in the Parliament, banners on the street and high profile receptions attended by the Prime Minister of neighbouring Albania. Our visit meant a lot to them. It said that the UK wasn't abandoning them even though it is leaving the EU. They were extremely positive about the UK Embassy staff.
We met the President, the Prime Minister, The Foreign Secretary, the Education Secretary, the Health Secretary as well as other politicians. Every meeting began with them thanking us for our support in their hour of need and ongoing support ever since. The politicians had a decent grasp of the huge challenges their country faces. But it was also clear talking to the Chamber of Commerce and community organisations that the politicians are part of the problem as well as the solution. Corruption is at all levels of society. Universal health care might give you an entitlement to see a GP but unless you take along a 'gift' you are unlikely to get the best service. The quality of education is poor and unemployment is high, over 30%. An unusually huge contribution to the economy is from money sent back to the country by their ex pats in Switzerland, Germany, the UK and elsewhere. This shows great loyalty and enthusiasm from Kosovans worldwide for their home country.
Everyone proudly told us about successful Kosovans like singer Rita Ora and judo champion Majlinda Kelmendi who won their first Olympic gold medal at Rio. Whilst we were there they were delighted by the Kosovo-British production 'Home' winning the Best Short Film at the prestigious BAFTAs. So there is much to celebrate and much potential for this country to unlock. It has great untapped mineral wealth but that won't be realised until the environment is right for foreign investment. Pristina, its bustling capital city and beautiful Priznen along with its fantastic mountain scenery could be the springboard for successful tourism. But, although the number of NATO and EU personnel are significantly reduced and reducing they are still needed to provide support.
When we were there the bridge over the Ibar river connecting the two sides of the northern city of Mitrovica had been closed with a wall evidencing the ongoing ethnic and political tensions between the Serbs in the north and the Albanians the south. Thankfully political action by the Mayor whom we met resolved the issue quickly and reopened the bridge but the underlying tension is still there.
After all the stimulation of the different and the reflection that it provokes it was good to get back in time to hear of Scunthorpe's ten men holding on to a point at league leaders Sheffield United and to join the Mayor of Kirton in Lindsey for her excellent charity dinner on Saturday night.
One of the less visible things Parliament does that is build relationships with other parliaments across the world as part of a contribution to greater understanding and peace. Last week...
Most people agree that Careers Education isn't as consistently good as we would like, despite some excellent work in many schools and colleges. I was pleased the Skills Minister agreed with me when I asked him for schools to be placed under a duty to allow colleges and other post-16 providers to go in and speak to pupils about what's on offer locally.
North Lindsey College students told me about their school experience, confirming that access to information is patchy to say the least. I will use their experience to support the arguments I'm making in a few weeks’ time in the ten minute rule bill I'm putting forward to try to improve the situation.
The Skills Minister was impressed with the local Early Years' Apprentice I took to see him so he could learn how recent changes to requirements have made it more difficult for some excellent students to progress in their chosen profession through no fault of their own. I hope that, as a result of our meeting, he will make the changes necessary to ensure that great talent is not prevented from realising its potential.
I was proud to present the petition from local people concerned about the future of Westcliffe Post Office. It was good to get a written commitment from the Post Office saying they will do what they can. And I had a very good meeting with Brumby Councillor Len Foster and Ongo who are working hard to find a solution.
I spent part of Friday morning at Scunthorpe A&E observing what was going on and hearing from staff about the challenges they are facing. One thing's for certain there are some fantastic professionals doing their very best for us. But the system is creaking under this Conservative Government's watch. After being in denial for so long it was good to hear the Health Secretary finally admit that we are facing a crisis in our A&E departments. Now it's time for him to do something about it!
I chaired a further busy meeting of our enquiry into early diagnosis of pancreatic cancer and I rather stumped the Health Minister when I asked when the Government intends to publish its response to the medicines Accelerated Access Review.
Another person stumped by my question was the Cabinet Office Minister who was unable to tell the House of Commons when the Government will be publishing departmental performance in the percentage of UK steel in their procurement.
In other news the Government agreed that Parliament will vote on the draft deal with the EU before the Bill to trigger Article 50 passed by large majority as it moves into the House of Lords for their consideration.
It was good to support colleagues arguing for better Football Association governance and to speak up once again for justice for the WASPI women, whose pensions have been badly affected by Government changes.
Most people agree that Careers Education isn't as consistently good as we would like, despite some excellent work in many schools and colleges. I was pleased the Skills Minister agreed...
Brexit loomed large last week as we finally got the long awaited vote to support the triggering of Article 50. This was passed by a very large majority demonstrating what I have always known - where there has been a referendum parliament will respect the people's will.
It was, however, a difficult week for Labour whips, like myself, being sympathetic to those colleagues who represent constituencies that voted overwhelmingly Remain whilst ensuring that our overall position reflected that of the majority who voted.
Knocking on doors in the both the Copeland and Stoke by-elections it was good to see that Labour voters are sticking with Labour - recognising we are best placed to argue for a future relationship with the European Union that protects jobs and is in the best interests of the UK. And that's where the focus now moves - and rightly so. It is in the painstaking detail that the future safety and prosperity of both the UK and the EU will be settled.
Meanwhile we have had all the furore over President Tump's first few days in office. It certainly isn't dull now he's around!! I asked the Foreign Secretary if he will put standing up for British values first in our dealings with the US? He waffled!
It was good to meet a lot of local movers and shakers at a celebration of the work done to promote the Energy Estuary both sides of the Humber organised by the Humber LEP. Earlier I'd managed to ask the Business Secretary what he was doing to ensure the highest possible level of UK steel content in the wind farms being built in the North Sea. It was a very appropriate for me to visit the UK's oldest community radio station, Estuary TV at the Grimsby Institute!
The most important meeting of the week was the one I'd arranged for local nursery providers to air their concerns about how Government changes are likely to impact on them directly to the Early Years Minister. It was a very productive meeting with the Minister's civil servant spending a lot of time afterwards probing the concerns raised by the fantastic local women who lead these nurseries.
Another fantastic local success story is Stylex who are going from strength to strength in supplying products to the automotive industry. I was very impressed by the quality of the work they are doing and the enthusiasm of their staff team.
Finally I was delighted to join Labour colleagues across Lincolnshire for the launch of Labour's campaign for the county council elections in Lincolnshire
Brexit loomed large last week as we finally got the long awaited vote to support the triggering of Article 50. This was passed by a very large majority demonstrating what...
Perhaps the new US President should have attended the very moving Holocaust Memorial Day service at Scunthorpe Civic Centre where young and old reminded us of the lessons of that terrible time. It is ironic that the President should choose that very day to issue his order against Muslims with its strong echo of Nazi Germany's orders against the Jews. Having visited Auschwitz-Birkenau with local sixth formers I was deeply moved by the horrors that place has witnessed. We should follow Churchill's example - stand up to bullies, not appease them.
The contribution of local school children in the service was particularly powerful. Looking round St Peter and St Paul Primary School I was further reminded of how brilliant our young people are. There were such a lot of exciting things going on! The School Council put me on the spot with carefully researched questions to ask me about my job!
Back in Westminster it was good that Steel MPs were able to publish our steel strategy on the day that Government published its Industrial Strategy Green Paper. In answer to my question the Business Secretary indicated that steel was well placed to gain a sector deal from the Government. Investment is skills is likely to be an important ingredient of any such deal and that was the focus of the Skills and Employment meeting that I chaired, attended by the Skills Minister.
Last week also saw the start of our All Party Group's enquiry into the situation regarding progress in early diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, in a week when we learnt of the sad death of Sir John Hurt from this awful disease.
It's always good to see local people getting recognised for the outstanding work they do so it was good to gather in Speaker's House for the Contact a Family Awards where Fiona Beard was shortlisted for her fantastic work with other parent carers developing parent power.
And while we are celebrating success it was great to be at Glanford Park for Scunthorpe's thrilling 3-2 win and see them climb back to the top of League 1. Up The Iron!
Perhaps the new US President should have attended the very moving Holocaust Memorial Day service at Scunthorpe Civic Centre where young and old reminded us of the lessons of that...