When you are sitting on a Bill Committee it gobbles up time as you go through the proposed legislation line by line. So this is what I was doing most of last week as the excitingly titled Taxation (Cross Border Trade) Bill completed its committee stage. It's the Bill that will decide - amongst other things - what protection there will be for UK Steel British Steelwhen we come out of the EU. At the moment there are over 40 trade defence instruments in place to protect the European market from the dumping of Chinese and other steel being sold at less than it cost to produce. It quickly became clear that the Conservative Government isn't guaranteeing these protections stay in place when we leave the EU, which is troubling to say the least. What people don't appear to understand is that steel is a commodity that is traded freely without tariffs which makes it crucially important that action is taken where necessary to ensure trade is not only free but fair. I asked the Secretary of State for Leaving the EU how he was going to ensure UK Steel prospered after we had come out. Worryingly he had no answer other than a bit of bluster. It is surely time for this hopeless Conservative Government to up its game on behalf of British manufacturing and make decisions in the country's interests not the narrow concerns of the Conservative Party.
At Education Questions I continued to ask for fair funding of 16-19 year olds like those attending North Lindsey College and John Leggott College colleges. It's time for action to level this playing field!
The other big question that Parliament considered last week was to do with the future of the Houses of Parliament themselves. There were various options before us on how to proceed with the grandly named 'Restoration and Renewal" of the parliamentary estate. All options seem to cost an arm and several legs!!! So I went on a tour of the basement to see for myself what the problem was that needed fixing at such a cost to the public purse. After the basement tour I was convinced that to preserve our heritage and to keep people safe into the distant future the best option was the one where we all move out. In the end this option won by just 16 votes in a free vote. So hopefully now a decision has been made it can be got on without any more expensive dilly dallying.
Finally I was delighted to join councillors for their civic service held at Bottesford Baptist Church. Whatever Big Brother Conservative North Lincolnshire Council might say our Town Councils do a good job and should be seen as excellent partners in working for their communities not smaller bodies to boss about.
When you are sitting on a Bill Committee it gobbles up time as you go through the proposed legislation line by line. So this is what I was doing most...
My Diary Week Ending 28th January 2018.
International trade is a 2 way street. That was very clear this week when British Steel showed that when there's a level playing field they can win contracts, not only in the UK and Europe, but across the world as they announced a contract to supply steel to a massive Chinese port development. But, as I took part in the deliberations of the excitingly titled Taxation (Cross-Border) Bill, it is equally clear that as we leave the EU we ...must ensure that the protections from unfair trade remain in place - particularly to prevent the dumping of Chinese steel.
Steel is a commodity traded in a free market so when countries - like China - are trying to sell it for less than it costs to produce proper trade defence instruments need to be in place. I will continue to strongly argue that the UK Government shouldn't weaken these protections as we leave the EU - which appears to be what they want to do.
It was good to catch up with NFU Sugar who produce, amongst other things, the popular silver brand with sugar beet grown in our area.
Concern about ensuring better access for students from disadvantaged backgrounds in to our universities was explored at a meeting with universities and with the outgoing Director of Fair Access to Higher Education.
Better research in to diseases like dementia and cancer is driven by our universities, often in alliance with key charities. So it was good to meet with the Alzeimers Society and learn about the work they are doing locally to support better understanding and treatment of dementia.
I also enjoyed visiting the brilliant Cancer Research UK shop on Scunthorpe High Street to meet the staff and volunteers whose work brings in the money to pay for the research. It was also good to learn about the work that CRUK are doing with local GPs, community pharmacies and others.
I visited Fibrecycle Uk Limited who are fast becoming a market leader for cat litter product which they produce from 100% recycled material. Another local success story!!!! It was good to meet up with the local WASPI - Women Against State Pension Inequality Campaign group (picture above with Rosie Jordan) to be updated on how their campaign is going and what more I can do to support them in getting pension justice for 1950s born women. And it was good to touch base with local police chiefs to hear how the force is tackling the spate of burglaries, anti-social behaviour and more serious crimes.
My Diary Week Ending 28th January 2018. International trade is a 2 way street. That was very clear this week when British Steel showed that when there's a level playing...
I used my Question to the Prime Minister to ask when she is going to get her act together and improve the performance of the NHS. With vacancy rates locally around 30% her response showed how out of touch she is with what is going on in the real world. She made no attempt to show sympathy for my constituents waiting 52 weeks for pain relief treatment compared to the 18 weeks they should expect. It just isn't good enough. Despite the hard work of staff and the resilience of patients our health services are struggling and there appears to be no sign of this Conservative Government doing anything to bring about the necessary improvements.
Northern Lincolnshire's MPs spoke with one voice in the debate on the lamentable performance of the patient transport service provided by Thames. This was one of the many issues I raised with Emma Latimer, the new Chief Officer of North Lincolnshire CCG when I met with her for the first time. As Chair of the All Party Group on Pancreatic Cancer Action i was pleased to hear the news that there could be a blood test to enable early cancer diagnosis. This was one of the things discussed as we set out our plan for the group's work this year. I also showed my support for action on blood cancers by catching up with the work of Bloodwise.
I am serving on the Taxation (Cross Border) Bill over the next few weeks. This is important for the steel industry so I was pleased to be briefed by UK Steel British Steel about their concerns. Steel is a commodity that trades with no tariffs so needs the Government to act to prevent unfair dumping of Chinese and other steel. Unfortunately, as we move out of the EU, the Conservative Government isn't just transferring across the EU approach but trying to make changes that will make it harder to protect British Steel from unfair competition. Sounds bonkers but there you are!! Anyway being on the Bill Committee will give me the opportunity to argue the case for fair treatment for our steel industry, so important to our local economy.
I will also raise concerns with the Transport Secretary about the confusion around the Government''s policy in relation to renewable transport fuel, affecting a local business, Vivergo Fuels. Another important local business is Phillips 66 so I was pleased to meet with them and be briefed about their current and future plans.
I continue to do all I can to stick up for sixth form colleges like our fantastic John Leggott College that celebrates 50 years of serving our young people and our community this year. So it was good to speak at a gathering of sixth form college Principals about how they can better get their message over to Government.
I also raised my concerns in parliament about the impact of the changes to ESA interest payment support on people who are already struggling.
it was a very odd week beginning with a visit to Northern Ireland as part of the Labour Northern Ireland team. It is a year since the collapse of the Assembly at Stormont so we met with all the party leaders to try to understand what needs to happen to get the Assembly up and running again. With challenges to the education and health services this is essential. Let's hope the new Secretary of State can make a difference. We take peace for granted but it is very precious and a major achievement of Prime Ministers Major and Blair.
I used my Question to the Prime Minister to ask when she is going to get her act together and improve the performance of the NHS. With vacancy rates locally...
My Diary Week Ending 14th January 2018
It seems clear for all to see except this Conservative Government that our cherished NHS is in unprecedented crisis. The message from the front line is clear for all to hear. Never before have 60+ Directors of Emergency Care written an open letter expressing their worry about the severity of the situation. Yet the Health Secretary who has overseen this gathering crisis is rewarded with a bigger title in the Prime Minister's bungled reshuffle! You couldn't make it it up!!
When I met with the Regional Director of the Royal College of Nursing he confirmed that staff are continuing to do their level best but the pressures on them are greater than he can remember. And they still don't know if they will ever get a pay rise with the Conservatives in charge!
We all know that being able to walk and enjoy our green open spaces helps keep us healthy so I was pleased to have my annual catch up with the Paul Learoyd, Chief Executive of the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust. He remains concerned about the risks that Brexit poses to the environment but is encouraged by the things Government is saying.
However it's actions that speak louder than words and when you have Conservative North Lincolnshire Council continuing to grab bits of green, open space to build on that isn't good thing.
One of my New Year's resolutions is to do all I can to stick up for our area's heritage and green spaces - our identity - against the Conservatives desire to trample over it. It was good to walk round Ashby Ville Pond (pictured above) and Kingsway Golf Course (pictured below) - 2 local nature reserves - with Paul and see the potential that these spaces close to population have in delivering that contribution to healthier living so important for our future.
Through their generosity local people keep the Wildlife Trust going.
Another example of local generosity was clear to see when I dropped in to The Forge Project (see picture above) to see dinners being given to people who struggle to provide them for themselves. The sense of community support was heart-warming. One of the ways to tackle homelessness is through the work of the Forge and other agencies.
The police have a role in dealing with anti-social behaviour and it was good to hear from the Chief Inspector of Humberside Police on Community Policing about the increased investment going into this area, something Keith Hunter, Humberside Police and Crime Commissioner reinforced when I met him later in the day. Hopefully we will begin go to soon see the impact of this with more Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) and police around and about and crime being dealt with more quickly.
It was a shock to hear about the explosion at the British Steel coke ovens. Fortunately no-one was hurt and down to the united, coordinated action of unions and management there has been no disruption to the business. Well done to everyone involved.
I was appalled that the Conservatives tried to put the most unsuitable Toby Young on to the board of the Office for Students and made the point that his position would be better filled with someone with strong Further Education (FE) experience. With 30% of Higher Education (HE) students coming from FE colleges and a significant number of HE students studying in colleges like our own fantastic North Lindsey College it's outrageous that there is no-one with this experience on the Board. Thankfully the resignation of Mr Young gives the opportunity for the Government to right this wrong. Let's hope they take it!
My Diary Week Ending 14th January 2018 It seems clear for all to see except this Conservative Government that our cherished NHS is in unprecedented crisis. The message from the...
DEFEND FREE SCHOOL MEALS IN UNIVERSAL CREDIT ROLL-OUT
I have joined calls with The Children’s Society for the Government to rethink their plans around free school meals under Universal Credit.
Currently, as Universal Credit is rolled out, all children who live in a household receiving this new benefit will receive a free school meal.
However, under current proposals set out in a consultation by the Department for Education, this will change when an earnings threshold of £7,400 will be introduced and will be for all new Universal Credit claimants come April 2018. This consultation runs until the 11th January 2018.
Yet, according to analysis of the proposals by The Children’s Society, these proposals will mean one million children living in poverty will miss out on the benefits of a free school meal and locally this will mean 3,007 in North Lincolnshire missing out.
This figure is roughly the same as those children currently living in poverty who don’t receive a free school meal; showing that Universal Credit will do nothing to alleviate child poverty rates in the UK.
Labour is calling on the Government to ensure that no child goes hungry during the school day, by ensuring that every child in a family receiving Universal Credit is eligible for Free School Meals.
Labour have always stood up for the benefits of free school meals on a child’s education and health and alleviating persistent child poverty levels in our society.
That is why the current proposals on the future of free school meals under Universal Credit are deeply concerning and show how this Government is out of touch with the importance to seriously address poverty levels across the country.
These changes will affect many local families, especially the poorest in our society, and it is important the Government rethinks their approach. Ministers must hear the views of local people on this matter and how we should be alleviating poverty, not entrenching it.
The Department for Education’s consultation runs until 11th January 2018. It can be read here: https://www.gov.uk/…/eligibility-for-free-school-meals-and-…
DEFEND FREE SCHOOL MEALS IN UNIVERSAL CREDIT ROLL-OUT I have joined calls with The Children’s Society for the Government to rethink their plans around free school meals under Universal Credit....