There is no let-up in the campaign for a better deal for the steel industry from the Conservative government. Steel MPs cross party heard from the Head of UK Steel that there is still an urgent need to level the playing field. In particular he warned that every effort should be taken to tackle the dumping of steel from Communist China.
I was very disappointed in the Prime Minister's response to me when I asked him why the UK government is blocking the EU Commission from increasing the tariffs on dumped steel from China and elsewhere.
We also need to make sure that the UK government's changed procurement guidelines result in a high percentage of UK content in contacts subsidised by the UK government. If they don't they won’t be worth the paper they are written on! A good first test of this will be to see if the blades and mono-piles built for the huge Hornsea offshore windfarm being developed by Dong Energy are manufactured in the UK with UK steel.
Martin Vickers MP's adjournment debate on the subject was well attended by Humber MPs presenting a strong, united front to the government. Both Martin and I repeated our “asks” of the Government at Energy Questions later in the week. We both got the sense that there is a determination to make sure that British tax payers and British energy bill payers money helps create British jobs. If that happens it will be good news for northern Lincolnshire - it should see the Able UK site being invested in and developed.
In my Shadow Schools brief I spoke at the EMFEC conference in Nottingham and visited a London school to see school based counselling in action as part of Children's Mental Health Week.
Just before the Commons broke for recess the government sneaked out the decision to close 68 Magistrates and Family Courts, including ours in Scunthorpe. I interrupted Commons Business to make a point of order bemoaning both what was being done and the way it was being done. The groans from the Government side showed that it's not just Labour MPs that see this as an attack on local access to justice.
I spoke in a debate highlighting the persecution of religious minorities in Pakistan. Britain is rightly proud of its tradition of religious tolerance and we should use our influence in the world to stick up for minorities and defend them against discrimination.
Finally I had an excellent meeting with the National Farmers' Union meeting at the Pink Pig, a very busy surgery at Sainsbury's and useful feedback from people in Ashby from my Saturday doorstep session.
There is no let-up in the campaign for a better deal for the steel industry from the Conservative government. Steel MPs cross party heard from the Head of UK Steel...
The announcement that Dong Energy has won the contract to develop the Hornsea Project One site for renewable energy in the North Sea ought to be good news for northern Lincolnshire. It's a great opportunity for the government to show it's serious about UK Steel being used to government contracts such as this. UK tax payers and UK energy bill payer’s cash should be used to buy UK steel for developments like this, creating UK jobs.
That's pretty much the point I made in questions to both the Business Secretary and the Leader of the House. Not sure that they totally get it, so I will keep banging on about it.
For someone who promised to stop 'banging on' about Europe the PM has spent a lot of time on that very subject! It won't be long before we are into full blown referendum campaigns for "in' and 'Out'. It will be interesting to hear what local people and businesses think. Europe needs to change. That's certain. But to leave is a big leap into the unknown - a massive gamble with jobs and livelihoods!
It's been a busy day on the Education front with the Labour team taking time out to think through our current priorities. The twin crises in teacher supply and school places remain a strong focus - both things we might yet get government to act on before it's too late.
I spoke at the Cooperative Schools' Network and the Young Fabians and dropped into the AoC Student of the Year Awards and St Mary's University reception.
I took part in an important debate where MPs cross party put pressure on the government to act to put right the pensions injustice being experienced by women born in the 1950s as a result of recent changes. Women Against State Pension Injustice have done a great campaigning job on this issue. Ironically we have a Pensions Minister who campaigned to right this wrong when she was Chief Executive of Saga and is now the biggest defender of the wrong. Hey ho!
I chaired a meeting of the All-Party Cancer Groups on the future of the Cancer Drugs Fund which had very informative contributions from NICE, CDF, charities and patients.
Back in Scunthorpe I met with Humberside's Assistant Chief Constable sharing the concerns constituents have raised with me over recent months. I then met with North Lincolnshire Clinical Commissioning Group about a range of matters including, asking what they are doing to address the weaknesses highlighted in the recent inspection of the Mental Health Trust, RDaSH.
Finally I was pleased to hear of positive progress on a range of issues at the Steel Task Force. Everyone recognises, however, there is still much to do!
The announcement that Dong Energy has won the contract to develop the Hornsea Project One site for renewable energy in the North Sea ought to be good news for northern...
The highlight of last week was the meeting of Humber MPs cross party with the Environment Minister to press for enough investment on flood defences in our area to protect people from the sort of event that happened in 2013 when the tidal surge hit us.
Everybody recognises that we can't prevent extreme weather events but we can reduce the risk from them. It was good to have government and the Environment Agency in the same room! I came away feeling pretty positive. Everyone recognised the unique strategic importance of the Humber estuary and the need to have robust flood defences in place, wherever the water comes from. There was a commitment from government to find the necessary investment and from the Environment Agency to use it wisely and effectively.
As MPs we won't relax on this one though. We will continue to keep a close eye on things by regularly following up what's going on.
And persistence and follow up is the name of the game in steel with me asking two more questions of Ministers this week. Why can Google get away with paying so little tax whilst the Tory Government drags its feet in reforming business rates to level the playing field for steel. And when will the change in procurement guidelines begun to have an impact so that we buy our new rail rolling stock from the UK (with UK steel in it) rather than Spain?
The meeting of the All Party Group heard from steel employers that the situation remains 'grave and urgent'. At Education Questions I raised again the crisis in teacher supply that the government is burying its head in the sand over.
In Scunthorpe I met more retailers and spoke to the Council about the policing situation in the Town Centre. There is general agreement that Humberside Police needs to up its game. I am meeting the Assistant Chief Constable on Friday so if there is anything in particular you feel I should raise do let me know.
The Election of a new Police and Crime Commissioner in May will be a good focus for discussions about how the police are performing. It was good to participate in the local Labour Party's nomination for our candidate.
The highlight of last week was the meeting of Humber MPs cross party with the Environment Minister to press for enough investment on flood defences in our area to protect... Read more
Last week was a microcosm of what I spend my time on. I spoke in three Commons' debates on the three issues that represent my three biggest work streams: steel, education and health.
The Steel Debate came in a week of further job losses - announced by Sheffield Forgemasters and Tata in South Wales, Hartlepool and Corby. The Conservative Government is still serving up warm words when it should be rolling up its sleeves and delivering on its promises. To be fair the energy mitigation package it promised 3 years ago has finally been agreed but companies have yet to see any cash.
On procurement it has put better guidelines in place but until these are followed we will continue to see wind turbines, nuclear power stations, trains and the like being built with non-UK steel. And the Conservative Government is yet to do anything to level the playing field on business rates whilst still dragging its feet on tackling Chinese dumping.
The Labour Leader met with steel MPs, UK Steel and the trade unions to consider all these issues further - it's important we continue to work together to keep the pressure on the government to up its game.
With fellow local MPs and North Lincolnshire Council Leader I met with Greybull Capital this week. They seemed genuine and very serious about taking over Tata Long Products. As with all such deals though the devil will be in the detail. I'm sure everyone wishes them, the trade unions, suppliers and Tata well in finding a positive, mutually beneficial way forward.
The Education debate was about the government's ill-thought through ideas for regulating Out-Of-School settings like Sunday Schools and youth groups. As Shadow Schools' Minister I responded for the Opposition. I was able to draw on the many comments I'd received locally from faith groups - Scunthorpe Baptist Church in particular - to demonstrate the dangers of what the Government was considering. Let's hope the Government is listening!
In the debate on the Cancer Drugs Fund I spoke as Chair of the All Party Group on Pancreatic Cancer. I highlighted the need to allow access to potentially transformational drugs, like abraxane, to improve the life chances of those suffering from this terrible disease.
Back in Scunthorpe I visited a number of High Street retailers to get feedback on how 2016 has begun and the support they are getting from Humberside Police. My sense is that, although the police still have to up their game, the New Year has begun reasonably well.
I was struck by what fantastic shops we've got - Tom Dennis for picture framing, D&M Mason Saddlery for all things equestrian, Charm for ladies fashion, Coe and Coe for jewellery, Fallen Hero for menswear - the list is endless! Sometimes we forget the treasures we have on our doorstep!
It was also fun to join a new retail enterprise - Meanwhile - being launched on Ravendale Street - looking to sell sustainable, recycled goods. There was a real buzz at the opening and some really good stuff for sale - well worth a visit.
Finally it was fantastic to be at Glanford Park as a guest of one of Scunthorpe's fastest growing companies, Foster Environmental, and see the Iron win 3.0 with an excellent second half performance.
Last week was a microcosm of what I spend my time on. I spoke in three Commons' debates on the three issues that represent my three biggest work streams: steel,...
I was really pleased to be updated on the positive plans for developing Westcliffe with new housing and a community hub where the precinct once was. This is something I've been working with North Lincolnshire Homes and the Council on since I was elected in 2010 so, like local people, I'll be pleased to see something finally coming together to improve the area.
As Shadow Schools Minister spending time in local schools is doubly beneficial! It was really good to meet up with the leadership of the Outwood Academy Trust at Foxhills and learn more about the challenges they face and the successes they are having. Certainly both Foxhills and Brumby School communities students' performance is much improved as a result of Outwood's work.
Another school that is enjoying better times is Priory Lane, now in a federation with Westcliffe that is bringing benefits to children across both schools and is proof positive that schools don't have to be turned into academies to be turned round. As I always say, it's simple stuff - concentrate on the quality of teaching and learning and leadership and you can't go too far wrong!
I dropped into Enderby Road Infants' Democracy Day which showed how excited children can be about voting and elections at a very young age when it is made relevant to them. Getting a school place is pretty important though. And as the deadline passed for parents to express their school preferences for their children it is shocking that so many primary children are being taught in super-sized classes because the Conservative government hasn't made sure there are enough school places where they are needed. Instead they have wasted over £240 million on new free schools where there are already enough school places which is complete madness!
At the Scunthorpe Town Team meeting I heard from residents of their concern that the green open space at the former Brumby Resource Centre site, enjoyed by local people, might be taken away as North Lincolnshire Council looks to develop the site for housing. Houses are good for the brownfield site but there shouldn't be further reduction of green open space. I am supporting petitioners and local councillors in trying to get the Council to see sense and act in the interests of local people.
How to get the best for the area was the focus for the meeting I attended at Hull University considering the best devolution settlement for the area. What's clear to me is that currently local people and local businesses are not as involved as they should be in shaping future arrangements. I take my lead from business led organisations - the Hull and Humber Chamber and the Humber LEP - both of whom are saying that any future arrangement should recognise the huge potential and relationships around our biggest asset, the estuary.
Sharing and supporting each other was the name of the game at the inaugural North Lincolnshire Veterans' Breakfast Club held at Frankie and Bennies - a very positive event.
Back in Westminster I spoke in a debate about ensuring that the Global Fund to fight Malaria, TB and HIV is properly replenished. And I took part in discussions on how to ensure that the Labour brand is properly reinvigorated as part of Labour's fight back with the general public.
I was really pleased to be updated on the positive plans for developing Westcliffe with new housing and a community hub where the precinct once was. This is something I've...