Parliament was in full swing again last week. There was a lot going on!
I spoke every day in the Chamber. On Monday I asked the Skills Minster what future he saw for BTEC qualifications and got an answer that suggested he didn't really understand the question! A number of written follow up questions have received answers that amount to 'wait and see'. I know from leading a sixth form college how important BTEC Firsts and BTEC Nationals are to providing good programmes with strong progression on to work and higher education.
On Tuesday I was one of over 80 MPs who presented petitions in support of the Women Against State Pension Inequality. This was a really strong statement in favour of the government acting to redress the negative impact on women who are currently being short changed.
On Wednesday the spotlight moved onto the issue that will dominate for the next few years: Brexit. I drew on what local people have been saying to me to demonstrate that there is no agreement in the country at large on what sort of Brexit we should have. For the Tory Government to arrogantly say it will decide what this looks like without the scrutiny of parliament is not acceptable. But after significant pressure they backed down and now recognise that parliament has a right and duty to scrutinise what the Government proposes.
One of my regular correspondents, a local steelworker, gave me this perceptive observation: 'the UK has to decouple from the EU in a careful, rational manner - in the same way a plant is decommissioned slowly as pipes and connections are taken out of service in a step by step manner.'
It was to steel I returned on Thursday when I asked the Leader of the House for a Statement on the effectiveness of the Government's procurement policy in the light of the decision to use French Steel for Trident successor submarinies. This is a point I also pushed the Business Secretary on when he appeared before the All Party Group on Steel. His reply suggested that the first he'd heard of it was when the announcement to use French Steel was made!
It was great to meet up with Nisa - a business headquartered in Scunthorpe - at the event to celebrate the role of convenience stores. I also popped along to USDAW's event to highlight the role of shopworkers and the need for them to be treated with respect.
Everyone at the reception for our Paralympic athletes was full of respect for what they achieved in Rio. They are an inspiration to us all.
Equally inspiring for me was meeting the fantastic students at St Hugh's School who asked me great questions when I joined them for their Friday assembly. Another group of students asking me questions this week were those at Lincoln University who quizzed me on my job.
Someone who has done a fantastic job locally is Gail Spavin who I was delighted to join to celebrate her business's 25 year milestone and Saturday saw me dropping in to a fascinating training session focused on health practice and faith taking place at Bottesford Baptist Church. I then called in at the Jobs Fair being held at the Budd VC Barracks before going along to the Pods to see our local Basketball side, Danum Eagles take on Kent Crusaders. The standard was incredibly high with the Crusaders just having the better of the Eagles. It was great to see John Leggott Principal, Leon Riley there out and about in the community making it clear that's where the college should be.
Parliament was in full swing again last week. There was a lot going on! I spoke every day in the Chamber. On Monday I asked the Skills Minster what future...
What a busy week! I met so many people in so many different places.
Perhaps the thing that surprised me most was when I asked a classroom full of John Leggott students how they would have voted in the EU Referendum and 100% backed Remain whilst 50% of their parents backed Leave.
This was a stark reminder to me of the Government's responsibility to ensure that Brexit is achieved in a way that meets the aspirations of the whole country - the 48% as well as the 52%. In fact only 35% of people eligible to vote backed Brexit and we don't know what they meant by that so all this talk at the Conservative Party Conference of going for a 'hard Brexit' is worrying. 'Hard' is hard for the British people, like people living and working locally.
Visiting local manufacturers, Karro there was real concern about the impact of Brexit on their business unless Government moves quickly to support greater investment in capital equipment and skills.
It was great to see Little Tots Nursery in action. Like the many great nurseries we have locally they are carrying out one of the most important jobs, giving our children the best start in life. I was concerned to hear that proposed changes in funding of 3 and 4 year old provision form April 2017 could have a negative impact on what's being provided locally. Something I will be definitely taking up in Parliament now we are back in session this week.
Another thing to chase is whatever happened to the consultation on the future of the British Steel Pension Scheme. A meeting of local steel pensioners confirmed that concerns are still understandably high about the impact of any changes on them.
Ongo, our largest social housing provider, gave me a really first class briefing about the challenges coming down the track from a Conservative Government that seems uninterested in tackling the real challenges people find in getting and keeping a home.
I've had meetings with the Chief Executives of both the mental health trust RDaSH and the Hospital Trust. In both cases I was keen to learn on how things are improving and what more can be done to ensure that health provision locally is where we want it to be. I was pleased to meet with the new Patient Transport provider, Thames Group, who struck me as having some very positive ideas about working with others to help improve service. And it was great to join Lindsey Lodge Hospice and Scunthorpe Baptist Church for the Harvest Festival celebrations at Bridgewater Park Care Home.
I enjoyed my visit to Outwood Foxhills to learn more about the successes they are having and their hopes for this year.
Handlesbanken also seem to be doing very well and reported a growing business locally which is hopefully a good sign about the state of our local economy.
What a busy week! I met so many people in so many different places. Perhaps the thing that surprised me most was when I asked a classroom full of John...
Full marks for British Steel celebrating the success of their first hundred days, turning in a profit. This is down to their fantastic workforce.
It was great to see British Steel attending a Jobs Fair for their first time under their new banner at the Baths Hall. It was a busy, exciting event. When I arrived people were queuing outside to get in eager to find out more about the opportunities on offer locally.
As well as chatting to the many organisations present I was one of a number of local employers giving mock interviews to people who’d requested that experience. I hope my interviewees found the experience useful!!
If steel and jobs are my number one priority health is a close second. It was good to catch up with Ashby Dental Practice now it is back up and running providing an excellent service to patients.
It was good to hear from the GP practice representatives at the Patient Participation Group Forum. The main concerns were around ensuring we recruit and retain GPs locally. Recruitment and retention of medical staff was also a theme of the stakeholder meeting to report on the progress of the action plan in response to the Care Quality Commission Inspection of our local hospitals.
I was able to reflect on all these conversations at the end of a day of health matters in a few moments of reflection as I donated blood at the session held at the Pods. I smiled as I remembered that the local Women Against State Pension Injustice Group were sending birthday cards to the Prime Minister to try to jolt her conscience in relation to their plight.
My week began at the Labour Party Conference speaking at fringe meetings on the way in which the world is changing and the challenges we will face as a nation by 2030 and how we need to get ready for them. It ended with an excellent coffee morning meeting new Labour Party members. It’s their energy and ideas that will ensure Labour does have the answers!
Full marks for British Steel celebrating the success of their first hundred days, turning in a profit. This is down to their fantastic workforce. It was great to see British...
The early part of the week I was on a cross-party parliamentary visit to Berlin which had us going from place to place, meeting to meeting in short order! We listened to entrepreneurs, government officials and politicians.
Their message on Brexit was consistent: they were sorry the UK is leaving the EU but respected the decision of the British people, they valued the relationship with the UK and were keen to continue to have a very positive relationship into the future. They were waiting to see what the UK wanted and then would respond to it. But when asked about risk to Germany of Britain leaving their overriding concern was the integrity of the EU and its success for the remaining 27 countries.
There were reminders of Berlin's difficult past with the monument to those killed in the Holocaust and the remnants of the Wall that divided East from West. A reminder of how hard won Germany's freedom, peace and prosperity has been.
Back in Scunthorpe it was fitting that I was able to join civic leaders and members of our faith communities for a commemoration of International Peace Day. Children from St Bernadette's, Scunthorpe Church of England, St Augustine Webster and Winterton Juniors gave moving recitals. A reminder of how these lessons of the past need to fashion the future.
I'm hoping, with the result of Labour's leadership election, peace will break out amongst the comrades as we have our annual conference in Liverpool!
I visited Fluent Coaching and learnt more about the excellent work they do with local schools, businesses and other organisations. And I popped into Athwal's Spa Shop on Scotter Road to learn more about small retailers' concerns that the proposed sugar tax might damage their businesses.
It was great to visit two fantastic schools - Grange Primary and Kirton-in-Lindsey Primary - and hear about the great work children and staff are doing. I was in Kirton too for the annual Civic Service which appropriately took as its theme tolerance and including everybody in the community.
Finally I was really privileged to present the graduation certificates to around 200 fantastic young people who had completed their National Citizens' Service this summer at a brilliant Awards Ceremony held in our magnificent Baths Hall
The early part of the week I was on a cross-party parliamentary visit to Berlin which had us going from place to place, meeting to meeting in short order! We...
Who would have thought that the most successful Conservative Leader in a generation would be out of office and out of Parliament less than 18 months after winning the 2015 General Election? But that’s what happened! This week David Cameron had resigned as Member of Parliament for Whitney. We are living in very strange political times! And with the Labour Leadership election coming to a close I begin to wonder if that will bring more surprises. We will have to wait and see!
Theresa May’s announcement that she wants to turn the clock back and open more grammar schools has created as much opposition from Conservative MPs as Labour MPs. All the evidence shows that areas with selective education do less well for their young people than non-selective areas like North Lincolnshire. And no-one seems able to point to a high performing education system in the world that has selection at age 11.
We also had the announcement that Hinckley C nuclear plant will go ahead after last minute dithering from the Prime Minister. It has always seemed odd to me that a Conservative Government is getting Communist China and a nationalised French company to build our next generation of nuclear reactors at enormous cost to the UK tax payer. Let’s hope they use UK steel.
The Boundary Commission published its proposals for new constituencies based on a reduction of 50 MPs. This is happening at a time when the cost of the extra members of the unelected House of Lords created by this government far outweighs any savings from reducing the number of elected MPs. And, with Brexit, we will lose our 73 MEPs so the argument for reducing the number of MPs is very, very weak. That said the proposal for Scunthorpe would mean that the current constituency which includes Bottesford, Kirton-in-Lindsey, Messingham, Scawby, Hibaldstow and East Butterwick would have towns and villages to the north (Winterton, Burton, Winteringham, Flizborough etc) and Gunness and Burringham to the west added to it. These initial proposals are published on the boundary commission’s website www.bce2018.org.uk and anyone can give feedback on them up to the 5th December when their consultation closes.
It’s 2 years since I led a debate in parliament in response to a massive public petition asking for more to be done to tackle pancreatic cancer. I chaired a meeting of the All Party Group this week in which we were updated on the latest treatments being developed for tackling this awful disease.
Finally I remain very concerned about the future of the British Steel Pension Scheme. Everything has gone very quiet as we await the Government’s response to its consultation on allowing the Trustees to make adjustments to the scheme. I am continuing to work with other steel MPs and the steel unions to keep pressure on Tata and the government to honour steelworkers’ pensions. I raised the issue of better steel procurement for government contracts again this week and also had a useful meeting with British Steel, North Lincolnshire Council and fellow North Lincolnshire MPs.
Who would have thought that the most successful Conservative Leader in a generation would be out of office and out of Parliament less than 18 months after winning the 2015...