Thank you for re-electing me in 2015 to serve the Scunthorpe County Constituency which includes Scunthorpe, Bottesford, East Butterwick, Hibaldstow, Kirton-in-Lindsey, Messingham, Redbourne, Scawby, and the smaller villages to the south of Scunthorpe. It is a real privilege and responsibility to represent these communities as your MP.
As I have done for the 5 years of the last Parliament I am producing an Annual Report of my work representing local people and giving the opportunity for constituents who want to, to attend a meeting where I will answer any questions on my role as your MP. This meeting is scheduled for 16th June at Redbourne Club, Cemetery Road, Scunthorpe. If you intend to attend please email me on email@example.com to book your place.
The main focus of my activity since the General Election
Looking back across the year there are 3 areas of activity that stand out.
Firstly the fight to ensure that Scunthorpe has a viable steel industry going forward.
This continues the campaigning of the last Parliament on behalf of steelworkers and their families. As things became ever more challenging for the industry I called for the Government to hold a Steel Summit. Ironically on the very day this took place in Rotherham – drawing together all steel community interests from across the country – the news broke that Tata was to reduce its workforce in Long Products by 1200. This meant 900 job losses in Scunthorpe and came on the back of the closure of SSI in Teesside.
I’ve spoken on steel 58 times in the Commons Chamber this year! Working with fellow steel MPs through the All Party Parliamentary Group on Steel I have highlighted the continuing threat from paying higher energy prices and business rates than our competitors, as well as the need for government to purchase and use local steel goods and to take action to tackle Chinese dumping of cheap steel in UK . I’ve met with the Prime Minister and other Ministers to press the case.
It’s been good to see Government finally taking some action towards levelling the playing field on energy costs and procurement. But there’s much more that needs to be done. The support of local people and businesses has been incredible with many turning out for local marches and demonstrations to support our steel industry. The Labour Leader and Shadow Business Secretary visited the Scunthorpe Works and made clear Labour’s determination to do all we can to support the steel industry. As a member pf the local Steel Task Force I’ve contributed to its work supporting local people. I’ve worked with the trade unions and management to support the process of the likely change of ownership to Greybull Capital, who were very positive about the business when I met with them.
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. As I pointed out to the Business Secretary 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.
Secondly, having become Shadow Schools Minister, education and young people have become a higher priority this year.
I’ve continued to visit local schools and colleges joining in a range of activities from Enderby Road Infants’ Democracy Day to Melior Academy’s Walk to School initiative. It was good to see so many primary schools taking part in my Christmas card competition which gave me a good excuse to visit them all amid the excitement of the festive season.
It was interesting to meet up with the leadership of the Outwood Academy Trust who are doing great work at Foxhills and Brumby. With North Lindsey they are involved in the University Technical College which I went round both when it was being built by excellent local builders, Clugston, and now it is up and running. It was fantastic to join North Lindsey College for the opening of their excellent Engineering Technology Centre – a really good example of an education provider working with local industry to train students with the skills of the future.
I’ve met with both North Lindsey and John Leggott about the challenges facing post- 16 and was pleased that Labour’s campaign against further cuts to post-16 funding was successful. Despite this there are challenging times ahead! The other major issue schools are telling me is a problem, and I’m pushing on a daily basis with the Government, is the need to do something about the growing teacher recruitment crisis. On behalf of Her Majesty’s Opposition I have spoken up for first aid training in schools, on behalf of parents’ having their say on the schools their children go to, and to express concern about the Government’s approach to regulating scout and faith youth groups.
Thirdly I have continued to do a lot of work in the area of health.
This is an issue often raised by constituents. It’s important to do everything I can to follow up concerns about the performance of our local health service when they are raised with me. It’s also important to be out and about keeping up to date with Scunthorpe General Hospital, North Lincolnshire Clinical Commissioning Group and Rotherham, Doncaster and South Humber Mental Health Trust both supporting them and challenging them in the work they do on behalf of local people. All these bodies are going through very challenging times. And care homes play an important part in delivering local health care too so my visits to them are also important.
As Chair of the All Party Group on Pancreatic Cancer I continue to contribute to a lot of cross-party work in Parliament on cancer. I continue to work for a better approach to authorising drugs use on the NHS – a very challenging policy area! I was pleased to officially re-open the Healthy Community’s Group’s work at Alvingham Road Community Hub. These community hubs are crucial to getting health care closer to local people in our communities. I was impressed with the way the hub was working. Everyone knows better coordination and early intervention is what is needed but it’s good to have seen some of that in practice!
Other local issues I’ve pursued in Parliament include:
Campaigning on pensions, arguing to keep Sunday special and trying to save our local Family and Magistrates Court. I've continued to campaign for a fair State Pension deal for women born in the fifties.
I met with a great group of local women campaigning against the changes the government has made to their pensions. Everyone is in favour of equalising the state pension age and recognises that, as we are living longer, we will be older when we get our pension but women born in the 1950s have been particularly badly affected. The Women Against State Pension Injustice, or WASPIs, deserve to be listened to and action taken on their behalf. That's why I will continue to speak up for them.
I was delighted that Labour was able to defeat the Government in its plans to change Sunday trading regulations. I understand the arguments about modern times, Internet shopping and so on. But I still believe that we are better off in keeping Sunday Special.
With Nisa - the biggest supplier to independent stores - headquartered locally I was pleased that MPs listened to the arguments from the Association of Convenience Stores as well as those set out powerfully by faith groups and USDAW, the shopworkers' union.
But I was disappointed that despite a strong local campaign the Government is determined to press on with its plans to close our local courts. As I pointed out to them many times – including in my meeting with the Minister accompanied by the Vice Chair of the local bench - this will risk damaging local access to justice. I’ve represented concerns of local businesses and communities to Humberside Police whose poor inspection after their reorganisation meant things had to change. The upcoming Police and Crime Commissioner elections will be an opportunity for local people to have their say on their current performance.
I’ve been campaigning since 2010 for improvements to Westcliffe Precinct so I am pleased to see that finally going ahead but it’s important local people remain consulted and informed about developments. The same is true of the future use of Kirton Base – and I’ve continued to work closely with the Town Council to ensure that the new owners of the site work with the local community to develop their plans. And I’ve been supporting local campaigners in arguing for a sensible re-development of the Brumby Resource Centre site that allows the valued green open space to remain.
I am always impressed by the excellent work local charities do to support local people and do my best to support them. It was good to join volunteers making shoebox donations to the Lighthouse Project, run so well by the New Life Church. It’s been good to support all our faith communities who make a real difference through their positive actions. Lindsey Lodge Hospice is one of many charities I’ve worked with this year. It was good to meet up with local Sea Cadet leaders at a celebration of their work in Westminster and to visit them at their busy local centre. I’ve also continued to visit a wide range of businesses in the area and to work closely with Hull and Humber Chamber and the Humber Local Enterprise Partnership in promoting the interests of the local economy.
I attended a very busy Jobs Fair at the Job Centre was a reminder of how important it is for people to be in work. I did a number of mock interviews with people before going round the wide range of stalls and chatting to people there. It was good to see so many employers present. I also have been catching up regularly with Job Centre Plus to be updated on how they expect Universal Credit to roll out locally.
Responsibility for the Independent Living Fund has now transferred to local authorities like North Lincolnshire Council. I am very concerned to ensure that those people currently in receipt of it are not disadvantaged as a result. That’s why I led a debate in Westminster Hall to focus on the possible impact on people currently being supported through the ILF.
Once again this year we have seen parts of the country devastated by flooding. Working cross- party Humber MPs have managed to get the Government to focus on the needs of our area in the wake of the 2013 tidal surge floods locally. The package of support recently announced is a step in the right direction but we will continue to monitor the situation carefully.
I promised when elected to be transparent in the way I carried out my duties and to be available for local people.
Thankfully the Independent Parliamentary Standards Agency (IPSA) publish all MPs expenses and I have a link to my website that makes it easy for people to find the information. I continue to publish a weekly diary of my activities.
Since being re-elected I have moved my office to Park Square where people can come and see me at my regular surgeries or have a consultation with one of my staff team.
I have also continued to hold roving surgeries around the constituency. I have dealt with over 2,500 cases this year on a wide range of issues. I have also upgraded my website, improved the way I send out my monthly e-newsletters and upgraded to a more interactive caseworker management system.
I hope that all these things will result in continuous improvement in the way I and my staff team respond to constituent enquiries.
Living in a global world
December was dominated with vote on whether or not to extend the UK's involvement in airstrikes against Daesh into Syria. I voted against but parliament decided in favour. It's still important for everyone to behind our brave forces involved directly in this action. Whatever our views we must hope that it will reduce the risk from Daesh and hasten peace for the region.
As I laid my poppy wreath last year, along with others from across our community, it was time to pause and think of the sacrifice and service that those from our area – the Ironstone area – have made to keep the rest of us safe and secure. I reflected on how easy it was for me to exchange ideas with German MPs on my visit to Berlin in 2015 and how this is a peace that we now take for granted but was hard won. The German MPs were very concerned about how to manage the refugee crisis in Europe and were very anxious about the outcome of the UK’s referendum on membership. They value the UK’s role in Europe and fear that a Brexit will result in greater problems for everyone. And so I am now looking forward to our country’s historic decision in June to Remain or Leave the EU.
More than anything else I hope that everyone finds time in their busy lives to think through what it will mean to them and their children’s future. Then we will get a high turnout and it will be clear that the UK has spoken and we will all have a responsibility to make the will of the people work.
With best wishes to you.