Everyone's talking about steel. Wherever I go locally people grab me for a word about how things are going. When I dropped into the excellent Lindsey Lodge Hospice Christmas Fair at Redbourn Club that was the subject on everyone's lips. Likewise, when I joined White Ribbon campaigners talking to fans in the Iron Bar prior to Saturday's clash with Bradford City, it was the future of jobs at the works and in the supply chain people wanted to know about.
At Westminster I was pleased that the Labour Leader called a round table of key stakeholders; including Labour MPs, trade unions and employers' organisation, UK Steel to see what Labour can do to increase pressure on the government to act. It's what steel MPs have been focused on for many years!
I met with Tata to be briefed ahead of my meeting with the Prime Minister, who'd promised a meeting with North Lincolnshire MPs in response to my Question to him in October. As a cross-party group of MPs we always work together on issues of common local interest and nothing comes bigger than this. We met with the PM in his office behind the Commons Chamber. He was well briefed and made clear his commitment to support the steel industry, steelworkers and their families. But, as I politely pointed out to him, the time for words in coming to an end. We now need urgent action before it is too late. Action on energy costs, business rates, procurement and Chinese dumping.
To keep the pressure on, steelworkers gathered in Sheffield for a Rally on Saturday supported by steel MPs and steel trade unions. This show of solidarity will, hopefully, be rewarded with announcements this week in the Autumn Statement by the Chancellor to match his words with actions!
It was good to join Grimsby MP Melanie Onn for a meeting with Dong Energy, one of the key investors in the renewable sector on the South Humber Bank which is a reminder that new industries can create new jobs. Of course the renewables sector will need a lot of steel! And where better to get that steel from than Scunthorpe!
I'm having loads of meetings with organisations in the Education sector as I get to grips with my Shadow Schools brief. Last week I caught up with the Association of Colleges, the Sixth Form Colleges' Association, Catholic Education, Holocaust Education and Parents Want A Say!
I presented the national awards to outstanding Teaching Assistants organised by the HLTA and I took part in a discussion about the current challenges of teacher recruitment and retention organised by the SSAT.
We had an Opposition Day debate focused on the post-16 funding crisis to try to get the government to think again ahead of the Comprehensive Spending Review announcement this week. And I spoke for Labour on the Private Member's Bill advocating that all secondary school children are trained in first aid and CPR. Sadly government backbenchers chose to talk this out through filibustering rather than allow it to go to the vote - which was disappointing as there was strong support from backbenchers across parties as well as enthusiasm from the charitable sector.