Sadly the devastating news about likely job losses at Scunthorpe Steelworks dominated last week. Ironically the Steel Summit I’d asked for that took place in Rotherham was pretty positive. We had all the great and the good of the steel industry there including Chief Executive of Tata Steel Europe, Karl Kohler and General Secretary of Community Union, Roy Rickus and well as UK Steel and representatives of contractors and supply chain.
The Business Secretary, Sajid Javed MP, was listening and I felt the penny was beginning to drop of what urgent actions need to take place. He promised to set up working groups to look at the key issues around energy costs, procurement, business rates and Chinese dumping to work briskly so that decisions can be taken before Christmas on actions to be taken.
Steel MPs continue to urge the government to announce actions as soon as possible and no later than the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement.
Leaving the Summit, news broke about a likely Tata announcement on Tuesday of 1200 job losses with the majority of those in Scunthorpe. I spent much of the weekend meeting local people, listening to their concerns and putting their case across to a wide range of media outlets.
It was good to join steelworkers and their families gathering names on a petition to StandUpForSteel in the Town Centre.
It was good to see similar strong support at Scunthorpe United where the Iron responded well to record a good win over Shrewsbury.
Back in Parliament I finished off my stint on the Finance Bill which has now completed its committee stage. I met with sixth-form college leaders at the AoC to listen to their well-founded concerns about the impact of further government cuts on their students. The cuts in post-16 funding alongside the crisis in teacher recruitment are the two top issues that I am pushing in my new role as Shadow Schools Minister.
I also had to respond to the news that the government is creating a new grammar school in Kent through the wheeze of calling it an annex even though it is 10 miles away from parent school. All the evidence shows that children from poor backgrounds on Free School Meals do less well in selective areas than they do in non-selective areas. So, if we care about social mobility – as the PM claims to – this is a bad move.
it was good to see local campaigner Maggie Watts at the All Party Pancreatic Cancer Group meeting I chaired. It was a busy, useful event with a lot of strong action coming out one of which is to do all we can to argue for the ability of patients to continue to get abraxane on the NHS – something that is in jeopardy following decisions by NICE.
Another local person down in Westminster last week was Lincs FM’s Sean Dunderdale who I met up with to be updated on that great commercial radio’s work. And finally I managed to get across to Hull Truck Theatre to see local playwright, Richard Vergette’s play ‘Dancing through the Shadows’. It was a superb and timely reminder of the way in which strong families and communities can come through times of great challenge and adversity.