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...
This week I spent a busy hour on the cold meat and cheese counter at Sainsbury's, learning from the great team of people who work there. They were simply brilliant with customers and they taught me how to make a pizza! Apparently it wasn't too bad!
Unusually for me it was a bit of a show biz week last week. Ex John Leggott student, Kevin Doyle, was appearing in 'This House' - a play about both the government and opposition whips' offices during the Wilson/Callaghan government of the late 1970s. He was superb as Government Chief Whip Michael Cox. It was fitting that today's Government and Opposition whips' offices, including myself, went along together to enjoy the fantastic performance at the Garrick Theatre. Although the times are different the issues were uncannily the same! Europe, Scotland, individual behaviours!!
The All Party Group on Mindfulness hosted a session with Ruby Wax who brought own style to the subject!
On a more serious note, I was delighted to champion the argument for more Changing Places toilets that has been made so well by local campaigner Lorna Fillingham when I spoke in a well-attended debate on the subject.
Back in Scunthorpe I did a walkabout with Cllr Mashook Ali in streets close to Scunthorpe town centre looking at the impact of the Council's efforts to improve the local environment. We found things improved but still more problems than is acceptable with fly tipping and litter - issues I am now taking up with the Council. Interestingly fly tipping and road issues were some of the problems that were drawn to my attention at my very full Hibaldstow surgery.
There also still concerns about our local hospitals which I was able to raise with the Chair of North Lincolnshire and Goole Hospital Trust when I met with her.
It was pleasing to be updated by management and trade unions on the progress British Steel has made since June. The steel industry is in a much stronger state than it was last year but there is still more to do to give the sustainable future that everyone wants to see. That's why the All Party Steel Group is launching a strategic report today, spelling out what needs to be done to ensure a positive future for our steel industry.
Finally it was great to join an excellent Bottesford Civic Service held at Bottesford Baptist Church on Sunday. A fantastic celebration of all things Bottesford!
This week I spent a busy hour on the cold meat and cheese counter at Sainsbury's, learning from the great team of people who work there. They were simply brilliant...
The first parliamentary week of 2017 was a long one for me because I was on duty for a Friday sitting. The reality is that MPs are busy in their constituencies on a Friday when private members' bills are considered. The chances of any bill making progress is slim. The Government often gets a few backbenchers to talk out bills or talk for a long time on an earlier bill so the one they want to avoid isn't got to. That's what happened this week to Grimsby MP Melanie Onn's bill to ensure workers' rights are protected when we leave the EU. So much for all the rhetoric about workers' rights not being under threat!
I began the week leading the end of session adjournment debate on 16-18 education funding at 10pm on Monday. It was good to see so many colleagues from across the House joining me in arguing for better funding for 16-18 year olds. Funding per student currently plummets by 20% for sixth formers before rising again by 45% when they go into higher education. That surely can't be right!
Another area where funding is clearly out of step with what is needed in the NHS. Unfortunately Scunthorpe was one of many hospitals across the country that had to cancel some appointments in order to manage the pressures of last week. It's not good enough for the Prime Minister to blame GPs. GPs are doing their level best. As is everyone else who works in our health service. It's the Tory Government that has cut spending so drastically on social care that it's causing the current crisis. It's the Tory Government that now needs to act before it's too late.
The intended cuts to community pharmacies won't help so I was pleased to drop into a debate on that very issue last week.
There is understandably a lot of concern about the quality of mental health services. So it was good to see RDaSH - our local mental health trust - getting a 'good' from the Care Quality Commission this week. I also enjoyed dropping into the Well Minds event organised to raise money and awareness of the needs of young people's mental health - it was an excellent gig at Cafe Indie with some great acts.
I also met up with our local Amnesty International group at Cafe Indie. Their main concerns were treatment of child refugees, human rights abuses in Palestine and arm sales to Saudi Arabia.
On the steel front it was very positive that we were able to sign off the All Party report setting out a strategic plan for the steel industry.
The first parliamentary week of 2017 was a long one for me because I was on duty for a Friday sitting. The reality is that MPs are busy in their...
Happy New Year to everyone! Everything seems back in full swing now as we enter the second full week of 2017.
I'm experiencing a difficult journey down to London as I write this - as trains are cancelled and delayed due to a fatality on the East Coast Main Line which is tragic. Thankfully our local train service is relatively reliable compared to the terrible experiences commuters are having on Southern Trains. Still the Government's cavalier attitude to the annual hike in rail fares sits badly against the PM's commitment to make things better for those who are Just About Managing!
The main thing catching my attention last week was the continued pressure on local health services and the British Red Cross saying there's a 'humanitarian crisis' in UK hospitals. It's clear that we are not the only area struggling with pressure on our system.
In meeting with North Lincolnshire Clinical Commissioning Group it's clear everyone is trying their very best to make the system work. But with an ever ageing population and insufficient resources our national and local health systems are creaking. As a local GP, who I bumped into whilst emptying bags of leaves at the tip, said to me - there really just needs to be more money put into health if it is to do everything we want it to. And, he added, people need to better understand what to go to the GP for and what to shrug off. People need to become more resilient: more easily said than done!
It looks like Scunthorpe United might be becoming more resilient again as they held on to their 3.2 lead in a tense half hour at Glanford Park on Saturday and are back in second spot in League 1.
Happy New Year to everyone! Everything seems back in full swing now as we enter the second full week of 2017. I'm experiencing a difficult journey down to London as...