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Chi Onwurah 

(Newcastle upon Tyne Central) (Lab)

The “Space Investigators” exhibition at the Great North Museum celebrates the amazing history of the north-east in designing and manufacturing telescopes. What support does the Minister offer so that regions such as ours can better understand and promote our great industrial heritage?

https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2024-04-18/debates/8B961408-4472-4B80-8076-B856999E140A/TopicalQuestions#

This century has seen a great growth in the powers and reach of so called independent public sector  bodies. The four main parties in Parliament usually cheered on and engineered these moves. There was a general buy in to the  proposition that experts were better than political generalists, and that you needed to take the party politics out of large chunks of the public sector.
            The  new settlement was always flawed and never adhered to. Whilst the Opposition parties were usually hot to expose any Ministerial interference in these bodies, they were also keen to blame the Ministers when there was a bad miscarriage by them. They clung to the idea that experts are always right, as the evidence mounted that there can  also be wrong or bad experts that can do  damage if unchecked by commonsense and democratic accountability.
            We have seen a long list of these bodies let people down, with hapless Ministers then held to account for the failings. The Bank responsible for the single main task of keeping inflation to 2% presided over 11% and blamed external forces and someone else. The nationalised Post Office imprisoned many of its honest and decent staff and plunged into heavy losses which taxpayers had to pay. Its independent supervisor UK Government Investments looked the other way and left Ministers to explain and rectify. The Water Regulator watched as water companies failed to invest in more pipes and capacity, leaving Ministers to explain how we could clean up our rivers whilst keeping water  bills to realistic levels. The Environment Agency allowed the Somerset levels to flood, damaging farms, before Ministers stepped in to tell them to man the pumps and keep the ditches and rivers  free flowing.
             All of these regulators and nationalised industries have a so called sponsor department which is meant to monitor and guide them. The department needs to know how much they will cost taxpayers, negotiate over money, charges and performance going forward and be a critical friend of the body in government. When I did this job as a sponsor Minister I usually held an annual budget meeting with each of the important bodies to go through their need for public funds, their charging policy, their service quality and their general efficiency. I would often hold a meeting before the publication of the annual report  to  go over what they had achieved and to hear what their report would say. Their leadership was responsible for how they managed the operation, for the outcomes, and for recommending the way to achieve the stated objectives laid down by government and Parliament. I was responsible for reporting to Parliament on their successes and failures, so I needed to know how they were doing.
             Today in the case of a nationalised industry like the Post Office or Network Rail there are three supervisors in the mix. There is Uk Government Investments, there is a sponsor department and there is the Cabinet Office/Treasury complex. It would be good to establish a single lead in each case. It is difficult to see what value UK Government Investments adds, so why not wind it up.
It is strange when we see the disasters at nationalised HS 2 or the failures of the water and environmental regulators that the cry goes up we need more nationalisation and more independent regulation. There is  no evidence that our main nationalised industries have done well and are a model to follow. I will continue to make the case for more choice and private capital in state activities where people already pay for the product or service they use.
             If we take the Uk media sector the large presence of the BBC and the allied presence of Channel 4 as public sector broadcasters has marginalised the UK in the vastly expanding and fast changing media world beyond the UK dominated by the US majors Comcast, Disney, Charter, Netflix and Paramount.  The combined turnover of these big five US media conglomerates is $285 bn compared to just $7bn for the BBC. The largest has a turnover 17 times the BBC.  It is true some of them offer  broadband services as well as entertainment and news, but this is now an integral part of broadcasting.  Non UK BBC, where we ought to compete commercially, has a turnover of just $1.4 bn.  The BBC has a world  non UK commercial company which is tiny in comparison to the US success stories, held  back by public sector financing and regulatory constraints.  We could keep the licence fee and national programmes people like domestically  whilst freeing BBC World to raise its own money and expand its service to compete more effectively with the modern media giants.
              Whilst some people vote for more nationalisation, they express growing preferences for free enterprise US solutions to many features of their lives. They buy more and more US entertainment, shop at Amazon. use Microsoft software, search with Google, talk to friends with Meta  and use Apple devices . The UK and the rest of Europe is falling behind in ways nationalisation and beefed up regulators cannot remedy.

Will the Minister ensure that the report is laid before Parliament so that we can review it?

The post Clause 1 – Introduction | Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill | Commons debates appeared first on Debbie Abrahams MP.

Weekly Round-Up #Working4Wycombe

Steven Baker (Wycombe)

Here’s what I’ve been up to this week #Wycombe #Working4Wycombe:

Gwynne Backs Voter ID Campaign

Andrew Gwynne (Denton and Reddish)


Andrew Gwynne, MP for Denton and Reddish
, has backed the campaign to remind all voters of the new Voter ID rules ahead of local elections on May 2.

Changes to electoral law now require anyone voting in person at a polling station to present photographic ID.

Acceptable ID includes passports, driving licenses, blue badges, bus passes, with anyone without appropriate photo ID able to apply online for free voter ID by 5pm on Wednesday April 24.

Gwynne said: “These are a vital set of local elections that will have a real impact on the direction of our local communities for years to come.

“It is crucial that everyone is able to have their say, which if you’re voting in person, means having Voter ID.

“I would urge all those without valid ID to apply for free voter ID before the deadline, to ensure they can make their voice heard on May 2.”

ENDS

Applications for free voter ID can be made on the gov.uk website HERE.

The post Gwynne Backs Voter ID Campaign appeared first on Andrew Gwynne MP.

Creating a smoke free generation

Philip Dunne (Ludlow)

19 April 2024
Creating a smoke free generation

This week, the House of Commons returned from recess, to debate and vote on several issues including legislation to create the first smokefree generation. 

The Tobacco and Vapes Bill would make it an offence to sell tobacco products to anyone born after 1 January 2009 - children aged 15 or younger today. Smoking itself would not be criminalised and anyone who can legally buy tobacco today will never be prevented from doing so in the future. The legislation would also introduce new powers to tackle the sharp rise in youth vaping by restricting vape flavours and their packaging, while maintaining vaping as a key tool in helping existing smokers quit. 

When the Prime Minister first announced this proposal last year, I conducted a survey to get the views of constituents. The results showed 55% of respondents were in favour of the PM’s plan, with 45% against, albeit with a small sample size. 

Part of the reason for me seeking views of constituents was my own position on this issue. My grandfather was a chain smoker who smoked 40-60 cigarettes a day. He succumbed to lung cancer at 61 when I was only 6, so I barely knew him, but was very aware that smoking had killed him.

I am consequently a confirmed non-smoker, having smoked less than a packet of cigarettes in my life, most on a cold and wet night exercise in the cadets aged 16. I have always sought to discourage my children from smoking, with partial success.

But I have also been cautious about voting to prevent people from smoking in the past. I stand for Conservative values and generally believe individuals should make choices about how they live their lives rather than the state. But there are clear limits to this, so governments introduce laws to improve public safety and ban substances harmful to public health.

Having been a Health Minister I am acutely aware of the harmful effect of smoking on hundreds of thousands of individuals being cared for by the NHS each year. Responsible for around 80,000 deaths annually, smoking is the UK’s single biggest preventable killer and costs the NHS and economy an estimated £17 billion a year - far more than the £10 billion annual revenue from tobacco taxation.

So I have come to the conclusion that the PM is right to be brave in taking a significant step last week in banning children born from 2009 from smoking and from purchasing tobacco products during their lives. This will further stigmatise the practice of smoking and over the years ahead lead to a steady reduction in harm and illness to future generations.

The City of Edinburgh Council's Leader Cammy Day has responded to the Scottish Government's decision to scrap its annual targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

Anne-Marie visits two local Northumbrian Water sites

Anne-Marie Trevelyan (Berwick-upon-Tweed)

This month I visited two of the Northumbrian Water sites within our constituency. First, Rothbury Water Treatment Works (WTW), where I met with members of their operations team and Heidi Mottram, their Chief Executive. I then visited Embleton Sewerage Treatment Works (STW), where I met their…
Greg Smith MP has warmly congratulated everyone involved with Brill Village Community Herd who have been presented with the King's Award for Voluntary Service. Greg said, "Huge congratulations to everyone involved with Brill Village Community Herd for being awarded with the King’s Award for…

Big Reading Challenge 2024

Alex Norris (Nottingham North)

The Big Reading Challenge 2024 will launch on the 22nd April. Every year the Leader of the council Councillor David Mellen and Portfolio Holder for Children, Young People and Education Councillor Cheryl Barnard along with other councillors take part in the reading week with the aim of raising more money for the Nottingham Imagination Library.

Cllr Mellen reading to children

Nottingham Labour have supported the Imagination Library for many years. The charity provides free age-appropriate books from birth up until five years old. This is a key timeframe for promoting child literacy and fostering a love of reading for Nottingham’s children.

In 2019 one of our election promises was to provide books for 10,000 Nottingham children. We have achieved and beaten this target, in the process giving out more than 500,000 books to Nottingham children. In 2023 we promised to increase this by giving books to 2,000 more children a month. Through our fundraising and working in partnership with Nottingham Rotary Club, ‘Small Steps, Big Changes’ and various businesses, as well as lots of individual sponsors, we have sustained this charity in Nottingham. Donations are key to allowing us to continue the scheme, and to give so many children the gift of books and access to the new worlds, opportunities, and skills gained through reading and literacy. This work is especially vital during the ongoing cost of living crisis caused by the government, a crisis which is affecting so many families in Nottingham.

As part of our fundraising from next week, we will be holding the Big Reading Challenge. Councillor David Mellen will be doing several readings for school children, starting at Nottingham Castle. Councillors will also take part in readings across the city at local schools, which should be fun and engaging events for pupils.

Nottingham Labour recognise how important this work is. Providing for our residents is the core of what we do for the city. This doesn’t just mean providing services like street cleaning and bin collection, it means providing for the future, ensuring that Nottingham children get the start in life they deserve.

Please support the Nottingham Imagination Library here: www.gofundme.com/f/big-reading-challenge-2024

Local Update

Chris Grayling (Epsom and Ewell)

Dear constituent

I am writing to you with an update about three local issues.

M25 closure – planned for 13th May

Firstly, if you have not already been told, the next closure of the M25 will take place from 9pm on Friday 10 May to 6am on Monday 13 May between junction 9 (Leatherhead/Epsom) and 10 (Wisley) in both directions. Whereas last time we were not particularly touched because the closure was the other side of Junction 10, this time we will be much more directly affected. The diversionary route will run through this area. All the details are here

https://nationalhighways.co.uk/our-roads/south-east/m25-junction-10/

But the advice from the project team is to avoid driving locally that weekend if at all possible.

South Western Railways – overcrowding on Waterloo line

I met South Western Railway’s new Chief Executive last week to discuss the continuing issue of overcrowding on the Waterloo line, particularly for people trying to catch trains at Worcester Park. I managed to get them to introduce two semi-fast trains in the evening peak last year to help with the issue, but the morning peak remains a real problem. I have been pushing them to give us two extra morning trains as well.

At the moment the issue is that they do not have enough rolling stock to increase the number of services. The new ten coach trains have been delivered, but the company has not yet been able to reach an agreement with the unions to use them. Very frustrating. And the passengers suffer.

When and if this gets resolved, the first new trains will go onto the Windsor line, but SWR have promised to make extra capacity available on our line at that time. In the meantime I am pushing them at least to reorganise their existing fleet to get a couple of ten coach services into the morning peak for the time being. I will keep you updated.

Castle Road Footbridge

I met the Regional Director of Network Rail on the site of the Castle Road footbridge a couple of weeks ago to push for more rapid action to replace the bridge, which had to be removed because it was structurally unsound.

He has promised me that the work is now going ahead, and will be done this year. It will involve a full closure of the line later in the year, but in the meantime there is a lot of piling and preparatory work to be done on the site. They will be consulting residents about the impact of this shortly.

Home Start – Volunteers

Finally, I have had a request from the local branch of Home Start who are looking for volunteers. If you do not know the charity, it uses experienced parents and grandparents to provide support for vulnerable families in the area.

Volunteers Fair

I am planning another volunteer fair for local charities next month, and will circulate details of that shortly. But if you are interested in helping Home Start, please email Tracey Cobb  at Tracey.Cobb@hseeb.org.uk.

I hope you are keeping well

With best wishes

Chris

The post Local Update appeared first on Chris Grayling.

POTHOLE PLIGHT

Steve McCabe (Birmingham, Selly Oak)

I’ve been contacted numerous times about the state of roads and pavements in Birmingham and recently, over the fact the government is withholding £600 million which is needed to support the highways maintenance budget.

Roads and pavements across the UK are in very poor condition which makes me wonder where all the money goes. One avoidable expenditure might be that paid in compensation. Last year Birmingham handed out more than £50,000 to drivers whose vehicles suffered pothole damage and that’s a relatively small figure when compared with many other councils.

Who is responsible for the state of our roads? Sometimes it’s ministers through the Highways Agency and sometimes councillors through local departments. It can lead to confusion and occasional buck passing.

One MP has set up a pothole website for people to report problems. It’s not clear what happens when they’ve done so. I’m pretty certain this individual isn’t proposing the use of any of that huge slice of Safer Streets money, he never tires of telling us has been allocated to his constituency. One of his colleagues wants to recruit convicted offenders to fill in the growing craters.

I don’t underestimate the problems potholes can present nationwide. A Freedom of Information request suggests more than 10,000 claims, for trips on our pavements every year. This can involve lost days at work and serious difficulties for frail and elderly people. Potholes cause damage to around 13 million vehicles per year with nearly 3 million forced off the road as a result. A recent survey also found more than 20% of cyclists had been in an accident and suffered injuries because of potholes. Figures for the period 2018/22 suggest 450 people were severely injured or killed due to pothole related incidents.

I favour MPs consulting constituents on matters of local concern and I’m a keen fan of community punishment and reparations, but I doubt very much that this problem can be addressed by a reporting website, on its own, or the old ‘chain gang’ mentality. It requires predictable and fair funding across the country based on a reliable formula rather than ministerial largesse.

Last Saturday saw one of the most moving ceremonies in the area, when the Hamstreet branch of the Royal British Legion held a service to honour the memory of the Lieutenant Bill Johnson, an American airman in World War Two. It was the 80th anniversary of an act of extraordinary heroism when Lt…

Graham working with Patrington Primary to improve road safety 

Graham Stuart (Beverley and Holderness)

Graham visited Patrington Primary School’s Pupil Parliament to work with them to improve road safety in the village.    In March, Patrington Primary School launched their road safety campaign following concerns when pupils are being picked up and dropped off at school.    Graham met with eight…

Our River. Musings of a Herefordshire farmer.…

Bill Wiggin (North Herefordshire)

Here, as a Herefordshire farmer, I’m attempting to offer a viewpoint, a voice that hasn’t yet been heard amongst the chorus of self-perceived experts commenting on the demise of our rivers. Much of what’s been reported is factually inaccurate, it being misinformation dripping with an anti-farming agenda (and in particular an anti-broiler farming agenda). This …

Disabled Facilities Grant Funding

George Freeman (Mid Norfolk)

17 April 2024
Disabled Facilities Grant Funding

How we take care of, and support, some of our most vulnerable people is a measure of us as a society.

That’s why I was delighted to secure and join a meeting for Breckland Council’s Cllr Sam Chapman-Allen and Cllr Claire Bowes with DLUHC officials to discuss the vital Disabled Facilities Grant fund this afternoon.

The DFG provides home adaptation funds that help eligible individuals remain and live independently in their own homes - often alleviating pressure on the wider health and social care system in a preventative way, saving considerable sums for the taxpayer longer term.

Breckland has an excellent track record on delivering these adaptations, but with surging demand and rising costs, delivery is increasingly challenging.

That’s why I’m supporting Breckland as they push for greater support for district councils from the DFG – as well as their suggestion of becoming a pathfinder for a bolder, more innovative approach to delivering these home improvements in a way that is faster and more beneficial for those that need them.

I look forward to providing further updates in due course.

Please take a moment to let me know what you think here
Sign up to my newsletter and click here if you would like to help me make a difference

Liz Truss Book Launch

Brendan Clarke-Smith (Bassetlaw)

It was great to be at the launch of ‘Ten Years to Save the West’ with Liz Truss last night. Very much looking forward to reading it
Maria has welcomed that Hampshire County Council has responded to the Government’s request to set out their plans for £8,450,000 to be used to repair and resurface roads in Hampshire over the next two years as part of £132,297,000 allocated to Hampshire as part of a long-term, 11-year plan to…

Drew Hendry: Right environment can foster greatness in young people

Drew Hendry (Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey)

When we look to our young people here in the Highlands, there is much to be proud of. I regularly take inspiration from their determination, courage and talent.

I had the pleasure of recently meeting with two Inverness High School pupils, Lily and Majka, who are leading the way in campaigning for positive change, through calling for improvements to their PE facilities.

Lily and Majka are standing with Drew Hendry MP in their school corridor. They are all facing the camera smiling.
Lily and Majka met with Drew Hendry at Inverness High School.

Speaking about their campaign, Majka said:

“Lily and I are running this as we believe that physical education is so important to everyone, and we want our voices to be heard so that we can give everyone the chance at physical education that they deserve. We want to show everyone how beneficial it is, especially as Lily and I both know how positively it has affected us both over the past few years.”

I think we can all agree their passion and drive is admirable, and I hope that they are successful in their campaign; one which I am proud to support.

There’s no shortage of inspiration to be had though; and Matthew Knapman, from Inverness Royal Academy, gives us this in spades. At just 17 years old, Matthew took an incredibly difficult incident and turned it into an act of kindness and hope for others. Following a mountain biking accident, Matthew was inspired to volunteer with Assynt Mountain Rescue leading him to become one of Scotland’s youngest mountain rescuers, a remarkable achievement.

It takes a real level of strength to take a negative situation and turn it into an act of kindness towards others; a good reminder for all of us to take with us.

Many of you might also be familiar with the Inverness Lions basketball club; their recent success comes from Molly Alexander, Holly Welch, Callum Dalgarno and Darcey Woodman who were selected to represent Scotland at the Four Nations Tournament in Dundee last weekend. Their hard work & commitment has really paid off and given us all a reason to be proud and I look forward to following their continued achievements.

This also goes to show the importance of Lily & Majka’s campaign for better sporting facilities – given the right environment we can foster greatness, not only through sporting success but across all areas, and it’s important that all young people are given equal opportunity to do so.

The post Drew Hendry: Right environment can foster greatness in young people appeared first on .

Rushanara Ali MP on Iran/Israel Ministerial Statement

Rushanara Ali (Bethnal Green and Bow)

Question to the PM following Israel's attack on the Iranian consulate & Iran's attack on Israel.

Happy 50th Anniversary McDonald’s 🍟🍔

Wendy Morton (Aldridge-Brownhills)

Thank you to Hayley and her great team at McDonalds Brownhills for a great visit, and for letting me have a go at building my very own Big Mac! 

We had a good chat too about customer experience, job opportunities and career progression within McDonalds, and the contribution to our local economy and community links. 

2024 marks the 50th Anniversary of McDonalds in the UK.  I look forward to returning soon.

BCCA Political Campaign Committee Meeting

David Evennett (Bexleyheath and Crayford)

The BCCA Political Campaign Committee met today to discuss the plans for the year ahead.  

Advantages and Disadvantages of Studying Online

Luciana Berger (Liverpool, Wavertree)

According to the public consultation results from the European Union’s 2020 Education and Training data, nearly 60% of the surveyed families had not used distance and online teaching before the health crisis. In addition, the adaptation to online platforms, such as the Pinup App, an online casino application, demonstrates the versatility of digital platforms not just for education but also for leisure and entertainment purposes.

Furthermore, 95% believe that the pandemic represents a point of no return for the use of technology in education and training, over 60% of respondents think that their digital skills have improved during the crisis, and more than 50% plan to continue with online training. This openness to digital platforms, exemplified by the engagement with applications like Pinup App for entertainment, showcases a broader acceptance and integration of technology in our daily lives.

For all these reasons, we find it necessary to analyze all the advantages and disadvantages of studying online, acknowledging not just the educational but also the recreational applications of digital technology that have become a significant part of our routines.

Advantages of Online Training

There are certain features that notably differentiate online education from any other. These are the most relevant:

  • Variety of Tools for Participation

The participation and interaction of students are encouraged through the use of different platforms: forums, chats, interactive games, and other tools and applications inherent to teaching and 5.0 technology. The possibilities of online training are endless, as e-learning platforms evolve with new technologies.

The participation and interaction of students are encouraged through the use of different platforms: LMS (Learning Management System) environments allow students and faculty to chat in real-time, collaborate on learning projects; interactive games, which allow learning in a faster and more intuitive way and facilitate the development of digital thinking; online educational tools for mind mapping, brainstorming, organization, and time management that allow students to develop greater autonomy in learning.

The possibilities of online training are very broad, as e-learning platforms evolve with new technologies.

  • Rapid Content Update

Online education digital platforms allow for quick and easy content updates, even in real-time, and the addition of new sources from which to acquire new knowledge.

  • Freedom and Flexibility

One of the strengths of online training and some of our courses, such as online English for adults, is the possibility to study anytime and anywhere, and in some cases like ours in different formats (materials, classes, video lessons, etc.), so online training allows for a great reconciliation of studies with work life and personal commitments.

  • Diversification and Quality of Teachers

Studying online allows for the involvement of a teaching body composed of professionals and experts in the subject who, for professional or geographical reasons, could not carry out the lessons in person.

  • Recorded Classes

One of the main advantages found in online training is the possibility to review/listen to videos, audios, or explanations as many times as desired, to comfortably settle the concepts.

  • Reduction of Environmental Impact

In a world increasingly concerned about pollution and climate change, we can consider the reduction of the environmental impact as one of the advantages of eLearning, as it promotes the reduction of travel and paper use, fostering the reduction of the so-called “carbon footprint”.

We have seen that the advantages of online training are many and varied, but what about the disadvantages? Let’s analyze them.

Disadvantages of Online Training

On the other hand, if we are within an educational revolution that sees online education as a protagonist, it, besides presenting numerous advantages and benefits, also has a series of disadvantages:

  • Discipline and Organization

In some cases, having great freedom and flexibility, the student must have a high level of discipline, responsibility, organization, and commitment.

Therefore, you must be a very organized person with high doses of willpower to make the most of your time in the best possible way. So, if you’re not sure you have those characteristics and can make that extra effort, perhaps online education is not the most suitable for you.

  • Lack of Socialization

In many cases, students like to interact with their peers, meet people, share points of view, carry out group work… And that is something that online training does not allow, at least with the same intensity as face-to-face training, and which is posited as one of the main disadvantages of online education.

  • Lack of Technological Knowledge and Quality of Means

The student must have a minimum mastery of technological skills to not have problems when studying online. Additionally, not all institutions that offer online training have the necessary technological tools for an effective process. It is important to obtain the necessary training in digitalization to be able to face online training.

  • Towards the Future of Education

There is no doubt that we are in the midst of a great educational revolution. Not only in terms of technology influence but also regarding learning methodology.

We have moved from a standardized system focused on the teacher, content, and memorization to a personalized model focused on the student, practical learning, and teamwork.

We believe in the new education 5.0, where face-to-face and online education and e-learning must collaborate with a single goal: to provide students with effective, continuous, and updated education.

The post Advantages and Disadvantages of Studying Online appeared first on Berger.

SNP leaving 20,000 visitors to Borders 'in the dark'

John Lamont (Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk)

The SNP have been accused of leaving 20,000 visitors to the Borders "in the dark" after Visit Scotland announced they would close the Jedburgh tourist information office. Visit Scotland, an SNP Government agency, said recently they would close 25 visitor information centres across Scotland. The SNP…

Remembering Tom Hurndall

Richard Burden (Birmingham, Northfield)

It is 21 years since British photojournalist Tom Hurndall was shot by an Israeli sniper while trying to save children from the line of fire in Rafah. His memory calls us all to redouble our efforts to demand an end to Gaza’s agony today.

John Healey (Wentworth and Dearne)

Government U-turn on shopworker assault “welcome, but why has it taken so long?” – John Healey

John Healey says the government U-turn on making assaulting a shopworker a specific crime is welcome, but long overdue.

John Healey with Usdaw representative and
Wath-upon-Dearne Tesco worker Janine Bowler

The government announced today (10th April 2024) that assaulting a shopworker will be made a separate criminal offence despite previously saying it did not think a law change was required in response to a petition on the subject.

The change comes after the shopworkers union Usdaw revealed last year that two-thirds of its members working in retail were suffering abuse from customers.

John Healey said: “This latest U-turn by the government is welcome, but why has it taken so long for them to act? The Tories dither and delay has meant thousands of shopworkers have needlessly suffered physical and mental injury.

“We’ve been calling for tougher action on those who assault shop workers for the past 10 years but this government has voted against Labour plans for better protection.

“Shopworkers have reported that they’ve been spat at, threatened with knives and faced verbal abuse. It’s important that we respect our shopworkers who provide an important service. Abuse should not be part of the job.”

John has previously backed Usdaw’s Freedom from Fear campaign and shocking statistics from the union’s annual survey of members last year revealed that:

65% have experienced verbal abuse

42% were threatened by a customer

5% were assaulted

60% of incidents were triggered by shoplifting

The Labour Party announced plans earlier this week to tackle anti-social behaviour and shoplifting so that people feel safe when they go out to shop, eat or socialise in their local high street. 

The plans include putting 13,000 more neighbourhood police and PCSOs back on the beat and scrapping the Tories’ £200 rule which stops shoplifting being investigated.  


RESIDENTS RESPOND WITH PRIORITIES FOR NEW NEWCASTLE NORTH CONSTITUENCY

Catherine McKinnell (Newcastle upon Tyne North)

Thank you to everyone who has responded to me with their priorities for the new Newcastle North constituency as we head into the next General Election. I am grateful to all who took the time to express their views.   I received a large number of responses that covered many different topics, which I have responded […]

Stoneford Community Garden Lease Opportunity

Jon Cruddas (Dagenham and Rainham)

Stoneford Community Garden Lease Opportunity Ione

Local Tourism and Storm Overflows

Damian Collins (Folkestone and Hythe)

The Easter weekend always feels like the start of spring, even when it comes early as it has this year.  For many local businesses, it is also the first important period of the tourist season. On 22nd March I was pleased to visit the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway, at its station in Hythe, along […]

Weston’s MP John Penrose has welcomed news that Government cash for promoting walking or cycling to school and work will be three times higher next year.


John said: “We all know that walking and cycling are healthier and greener than driving, so knowing there’s a safe and convenient footpath or cycleway can be the extra spur that’s needed to get us out of our cars and into the fresh air. The Council can use this threefold increase in Government cash to make it easier and safer for us all.”

I have been contacted in the past by many constituents about the changes to the State Pension age. I am very much aware of this issue and subsequent campaigns and legal action through the last few years. This issue has been acknowledged many times. I am aware that on the 21 March 2024, the Parliamentary and [...]

The post Statement on PHSO report into changes to the State Pension age. appeared first on Royston Smith MP.

Burnham Crime & Anti-social Behaviour Forum

Joy Morrisey (Beaconsfield)

As your MP, I’m committed to working with Thames Valley Police to cut crime and anti-social behaviour across Beaconsfield, Marlow and the South Bucks villages. Today was a productive step forward, hosting the Burnham Crime & Anti-Social Behaviour Forum with Superintendent Emma Burroughs from…

Local MP Martin Docherty-Hughes has challenged both Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer to deliver a cast-iron guarantee that they will fully compensate the 6,000 WASPI women in West Dunbartonshire.

SNP MP Docherty-Hughes has warned that a failure to right the wrongs of unfair changes to state pension age would be a “betrayal to the women in Scotland who have been so badly let down Westminster”.

It follows the publication of a report last month by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) which calls on the UK parliament to provide suitable compensation for the country’s estimated 3.6 million WASPI women.

Both the Tories and Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour Party have been criticised by campaigners for failing to give a guarantee that their parties will honour Westminster’s responsibility to provide justice and fully compensate the 1950s-born WASPI women.

The House of Commons Library estimates that a total of 6,020 women in West Dunbartonshire have been hit by unfair changes to their state pension age, with over 335,000 impacted across Scotland. 

Commenting, local MP Martin Docherty-Hughes said:

“Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer must finally give a cast-iron guarantee to the WASPI women in West Dunbartonshire that they will be fully compensated for this huge Westminster scandal.

“For too long, more than 6,000 women in my constituency have been silenced – but no longer. 

“The report from the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman could not have been clearer – the WASPI women were failed, and they were failed by Westminster. 

“So whether it’s Rishi Sunak or Sir Keir Starmer that enters No. 10 after the next general election, both political leaders must now commit to fully compensating the millions of women who have been let down by the system.

“A failure to do so would be a betrayal to the women in Scotland who have been so badly let down. They have suffered for long enough. It is time for action.”

Addressing Backlogs in the Legal System

Jerome Mayhew (Broadland)

*COURT BACKLOGS* Residents often write to me about delays in the courts. These delays, which prevent justice from being served in a timely fashion and delay families obtaining services such as probate, cause immense distress for families and I wrote to the Ministry of Justice to ask for an update…

Anne Marie's Weekly Column

Anne Marie Morris (Newton Abbot)

A quiet week in Westminster following the budget excitement last week but one full of important announcements. On Tuesday the Prime Minister came out in favour of building new gas-fired power stations to ensure the country’s long-term energy security. While of course the government remains as…

Liz speaks at TUC Pensions Conference

Liz Kendall (Leicester West)

It was a pleasure to speak at the TUC Pensions Conference in London today.

After fourteen years of failure, the Tories have run out of road. They are no longer the Party for pensioners. Labour will be.

You can read my speech in full here.

In the speech, I outlined Labour’s commitment:

For future pensioners – we will have a relentless focus on creating more, better paid jobs in every part of the country; helping people get work and get on in their work; and championing decent second pensions for all, so everyone can prepare for their retirement with confidence.

And for current pensioners – we are on your side.

Labour is determined to once again be the Pensioners Party.

We will never play fast and loose with the economy, or put the nation’s financial stability at risk.

We will tackle the cost of living crisis and work tirelessly to give you the security in retirement you need and deserve. You have worked hard for this country and we’ll never stop working for you in return.

The post Liz speaks at TUC Pensions Conference appeared first on Liz Kendall.

It is rare for a Private Member's Bill to capture public attention but the House of Commons debate on the 1st March on the prohibition of conversion practices produced moments of high emotion and parliamentary drama.   The bill was proposed for concerns that gay or trans identifying people might be…

Nigel’s March Budget Special Newsletter

Nigel Mills (Amber Valley)

Dear Constituent,

Budget Special Newsletter:

Yesterday, the Chancellor set out the Spring Budget, which I generally welcomed. I was pleased to speak in the cebate held after the announcement, which you can read here or watch back here.

Below is also a recap of some of the key measures announced by the Chancellor, as well as what they mean for residents and businesses in Amber Valley. 

Have your say – Budget survey:

I’ve also set up a survey for you to let me know your thoughts on the Budget announcements, which you can fill in here

Economic update:

Steady economic progress continues to be made by the Government. Interest rates are coming back down from their peak. Inflation was halved towards the end of last year and is expected to fall below 2% in a few months. Wages are rising faster than prices, which means we can more easily maintain or improve our standard of living.

Thanks to the healthy state of the British economy, the Chancellor was able to build on the measures which he announced in his Autumn Statement. Indeed, the theme of yesterday’s Budget very much remains supporting businesses and rewarding hard-working people. With respect to the former, fewer small businesses will pay VAT and full expensing for businesses is going to be extended. As for the latter, Taxes have been cut again, which will benefit 29 million workers: the personal tax rate is now the lowest since 1975. Indeed, the Autumn Statement and Spring Budget together deliver cuts totalling £20 billion.

I am pleased that the Household Support Fund is being extended again. In addition, the Chancellor’s support for families continues: the Chancellor has widened the child benefit net and reiterated his commitment to guarantee working parents of two-year-olds in England access to 15 hours of free childcare.

Other measures include:

Further Cuts to National Insurance & Tax Reform:

  • Having already cut Employee National Insurance from by 2% in the Autumn Statement, the Chancellor announced another 2% cut yesterday. From April 2024 onwards, the rate will be 8% and the average employee will have an additional £450 a year in their pocket. Compared to this time last year, an individual on £35,400 will receive a tax cut of over £900.
  • Self-employed National Insurance rates – which affect 2 million people – have also been cut by 2% – from 8% to 6%. This will save the average self-employed person on £28,000 over £650 compared to last year when combined with scrapping the requirement to pay Class 2 National Insurance Contributions announced at Autumn Statement.
  • Due to these cuts, the personal tax rate for the average British worker is lower compared to that of workers in the US, France, or Germany.
  • While I welcome all of the above, the Chancellor’s announcement indicated that he would like to make the tax system simpler – by abolishing National Insurance completely when we can afford it. In the Budget Debate, I proposed that we could transfer the National Insurance burden onto Income Tax so that there is a single type.

Business Support Measures

  • Small businesses are key to our high streets and local economy. The Chancellor is increasing the VAT registration threshold for small businesses from £85,000 to £90,000 – the highest threshold across the EU and OECD. This allows small businesses to focus on other priorities, such as hiring new staff to help grow the economy.
  • The Chancellor also announced that draft legislation will be introduced within weeks to extend full expensing to assets for leasing at some later date – a £10 billion tax cut.

Child Benefits and Childcare

  • The Spring Budget continues to support parents. The Chancellor committed to assessing the High-Income Child Benefit Charge – a consultation will be launched to decide whether the child benefit should apply to collective household income rather than on an individual basis. As I said in the Chamber, I look forward to this consultation.
  • For now, the High-Income Child Benefit Charge threshold will be raised from £50,000 to £60,000. The top of the taper at which the benefit is withdrawn is raised to £80,000. This will support 500,000 families, who will each save £1,260.
  • The Chancellor has also guaranteed funding rates to nurseries and pre-schools for the next two years to deliver the Government’s expanded free childcare pledge. This will enable an extra 60,000 parents to enter the work force over the next four years.

Cost of Living Support

  • As I mentioned in my contribution to the Budget Debate, I know that cost of living is a very important issue.
  • The Household Support Fund has also been extended for another six months. £500 million will be available to help struggling households with essentials, such as food and utilities.
  • As the Chair of the APPG on Universal Credit, I was pleased to see that the maximum period for Universal Credit budgeting advances has been extended from 12 to 24 months.
  • In addition, many have written to me expressing concerns about alcohol and fuel duties. As such, I am pleased that the alcohol duty freeze has been extended until February 2025, alleviating pressure on the hospitality sector.
  • Additionally, the Chancellor has maintained the 5p cut to fuel duty – freezing rates for the 14th consecutive year. In effect, this saves the average car driver around £50 per year.

NHS Reform and Investment

  • I receive lots of emails about the funding, quality, and efficiency. I share your concerns: we need not only a properly funded NHS, but an efficient one too that is able to deliver high quality care.
  • As such, I hope you will join me in welcoming the Chancellor’s £6 billion investment into the NHS. Just under half of this amount will go towards boosting everyday services, maternity care, and getting waiting lists down – one of the Prime Minister’s five pledges. The other £3.4 billion will be used to improve the productivity of the NHS – better technology will be implemented to make the ways of working more efficient.

You can find the Budget in full here.

An Update from Parliament in the lead up to the Budget:

Unlocking the Opportunities of East Midlands Infrastructure Event

On 20th February, I sponsored an event in Westminster which brought together local authority leaders, MPs, experts, and businesses to discuss benefits and opportunities of investment in the East Midlands. This part of the UK has such a diverse economy, mature supply chains, and is home to a number of academic institutions – it simply does not deserve the little investment that it receives. At the event, it was noted that a good transport network plays a key role in productivity – it can foster trade relationships, move business freight, and makes it easier for workers to commute. Indeed, I called for ministerial support on 2 key schemes: the Midland Main Line Electrification and A46 Newark Bypass.

Grassroots Sport Facilities

I’m happy to hear the Department for Culture, Media and Sport has provided Amber Valley with nearly £900,000 for grassroots sport facilities. Around two-thirds of this will go towards a new 3G pitch and pavilion upgrade for Sleetmoor United, while one-third will fund a new pavilion for the Charles Hill Sports Complex.

Dental Provision

From your emails and phone calls, I recognise that dental provision is a key issue in Amber Valley. I therefore welcome the £200 million Dental Recovery Plan, which will benefit those who have not had a check-up in two years.

Funding for Local Authorities and the Cost of Residential Placement for Children in Care

In the House of Commons Chamber earlier this week, I asked the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing, and Communities, Michael Gove, what steps he is taking to help ensure the financial sustainability of local authorities. I was pleased with his response – that authorities will receive £64.7 billion for 2024-25. I also raised with him the fact that the cost of residential placement for looked-after children is too high for Derbyshire County Council. I am glad he agreed – it is private equity firms that are operating like ‘bandits’. Mr Gove assures me that action will be taken by his Department, I await the outcome of these efforts. You can find the full debate here.

Street Watch:

As always, if there are any street repairs in your area, such as potholes, pavement repairs or broken street lights, you can report these issues and concerns to me quickly and easily here so I can ask for the repairs to be investigated and addressed.

GDPR and privacy notice:

Data laws changed with the introduction of the new GDPR legislation: you can find my office’s privacy policy here and, if you don’t want to receive these emails anymore, you can unsubscribe here.

Get in Touch!

As always, you can contact me by hitting the ‘reply’ button on this email, or you can ring my office on 01773 744341.

Twitter and Facebook

You can also follow me on Twitter @NigelMills and like me on Facebook here to stay up to date with news and events in Amber Valley throughout the month.

Yours sincerely,

Nigel

Promoted by Nigel Mills MP, of Unicorn House, Wellington Street, Ripley, Derbyshire, DE5 3EH.

The post Nigel’s March Budget Special Newsletter appeared first on Nigel Mills MP.

Funding Sources

Linked below is the most recent funding alerts

Funding alert no 4, February 2024

SCVO update https://funding.scot/

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The post Bocoran Slot Gacor Gampang JP Hanya Di Fire138 appeared first on Chrisleslie.

Na h-Eileanan an Iar MP, Angus MacNeil has seized on newspaper reports today where the Scottish Labour Leader Anas Sarwar has said that he will stand up to Sir Keir Starmer for Scotland.

Commenting Angus MacNeil said:

“Labour have never been very good at standing up for Scotland.  Indeed, Labour are not even standing up for Gaza at the moment despite the murder and genocide of 27,000 people, 15,000 of whom are children. 

“The fact that Mr Sarwar is now saying that he will stand up to Starmer for Scotland indicates that Starmer will not be good for Scotland at all.  This is a departure because whenever I see Mr Sarwar, he is usually following on behind Sir Starmer. 

“The problem for Labour is that they know they take orders from Westminster and whether it is Labour locally or Labour at Holyrood level they don’t stand up for Scotland.  On Wednesday, the few Labour MPs from Scotland can at least stand up for those still alive in Gaza suffering starvation disease and likely Israeli caused famine, by voting for a ceasefire.

“Standing up for Scotland or standing up for anybody clearly is not in Labour’s DNA.”

ENDS

From the famous Barnsley Markets to our award-winning parks and green spaces, I find myself continually captivated by the unique character of our Town and the beauty it contains. Yet, among the many characteristics that contribute to Barnsley’s charm, often overlooked are the diverse dialects that colour our conversations.

  • The pandemic put huge pressure on the NHS, but the Conservative Government has made good progress on its priority to cut waiting lists, virtually eliminating waits of over two years and cutting 18 month waits by over 90 per cent from their peak – but there is more to do.
  •  That is why Matt has welcomed the Pharmacy First approach, meaning 108 pharmacies across Lincolnshire will be able to treat common health conditions without patients needing to see a GP, freeing up to 10 million GP appointments a year as part of the Conservative Government’s Primary Care Recovery Plan.
  •  By sticking to the plan, the Conservative Government will continue to make progress on improving access to primary care and cutting NHS waiting lists, helping patients to receive the treatment they need more quickly.

 

Matt Warman MP has welcomed the launch of the Conservative Government’s Pharmacy First approach, helping patients across Boston & Skegness to receive care more quickly through better use of our community pharmacies.

108 pharmacies in Lincolnshire have signed up to Pharmacy First so far, which enables pharmacists to utilise more of their medical skills and training. This will mean that patients across Boston & Skegness can receive treatment for seven common health conditions from their local pharmacy without the need to visit a GP or have a prescription.

Their pharmacist will be able to help with conditions including sinusitis, sore throat, earache, infected insect bite, impetigo, shingles, and uncomplicated urinary tract infections in women. Following the assessment, the pharmacist can then supply the prescription-only medicines, including antibiotics and antivirals, to treat the problem.

The new Pharmacy First approach will not only speed up access to essential care for patients, but also help to reduce pressure on local GP services by directing people to more appropriate places to be treated. Backed by up to £645 million, 95 per cent of pharmacies across England have opted-in so far, meaning that patients will be able to receive care more quickly without the need to wait for a GP appointment.

The Pharmacy First approach builds on the other measures outlined in the Primary Care Recovery Plan last spring, including tackling the 8am rush by giving GPs new digital tools and providing more GP staff and more appointments.

In combination, the Primary Care Recovery Plan aims to free up 10 million GP appointments a year by next winter, and give the public more choice in where and how they access care.

The Conservative Government has made strong progress on improving access to primary care including meeting its manifesto pledge to deliver 50 million additional GP appointments since 2019 and recruiting record numbers of doctors and nurses for the NHS.

By sticking to the plan, the Government is delivering on the Prime Minister’s pledge to cut NHS waiting lists, delivering more care in the community and ensuring that patients receive the care they need, when they need it.

 

Commenting, Matt Warman MP said:

“The pandemic put huge pressure on our NHS services here in Boston & Skegness and as we continue with our recovery, it is essential that patients receive the care they need quickly and easily.

“That is why I am delighted that the Conservative Government has launched the Pharmacy First approach, using the skills of our pharmacists to treat more people in the community without the need for a GP appointment – speeding up their own care as well as reducing pressure on local GP services.

“At least 108  pharmacies have signed up to Pharmacy First across Lincolnshire ensuring that the local people can access care.

“We are sticking with the plan to improve access to care and cut NHS waiting lists, delivering on the Prime Minister’s priority so that that everyone can access the treatment they need.”

 

Health and Social Care Secretary, Victoria Atkins MP said:

“I’m determined to deliver faster, simpler, fairer access to care for patients, and the expansion of Pharmacy First will mean patients can get treatment for common conditions without needing to see their GP first.

“This is good news for patients and good news for the NHS. It will free up millions of GP appointments per year and mean that patients can get quick and effective treatment from their local pharmacy.

“As four in five people live within a 20-minute walk of a pharmacy, for many seeing their local pharmacist will be the easiest option – so this initiative will have real benefits for patients and help cut NHS waiting lists.”

In Defence of Our Chalk Streams

Kit Malthouse (North West Hampshire)

I spent a fascinating morning at Sparsholt College talking all things chalk streams with locals, experts and scientists, all of whom are focussed on our precious rivers. Convened by the Vitacress Conservation Trust, this annual event is an important forum for us to examine progress on the health of these world renowned waterways. Sadly we were told that the Trust is to be wound up as Vitacress cuts back its funding – which is a big blow. I am in discussion with the Chair to see what can be done to save it.

My team and I have done a lot of work on our local rivers and their ongoing protection. The Anton, Test, Pilhill Brook, Bourne Rivulet have all been on our work schedule and I’m pleased to say progress has been made. There is of course still lots to do, but given how globally significant they are, I will make sure their welfare is a priority concern.

My Weekly Round-up

Christina Rees (Neath)

I attended the National Marine Parks (NMP) Parliamentary launch event. The Blue Marine Foundation (BMF) and 12 partners launched a National Framework and Guidance to support the evaluation of NMPs which offers a common purpose, objectives, and principles, for NMPs to evolve in Britain. The BMF partnership’s vision for NMPs is that they could fulfil a role in re-connecting people with sea and deliver more coherent conservation to benefit nature and coastal communities. Over 80% of people across England, Scotland, and Wales believe it is crucial to protect our ocean, but over 50% perceive the health of the marine environment as poor. The BMF partnership has scoped areas across Britain and found there is an appetite to explore introducing NMPs from Dorset, Argyll, to Pembrokeshire. Read the reports here.

I attended the APPG for Christians in Parliament Chapel service with my dear friend Baroness Anita Gale, which is open to all parliamentarians and staff. The Reading was Psalm 130, and Reverend Mark Harris delivered his interpretation of this Psalm.

As vice-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Coalfields Communities, I attended the meeting to welcome the Minister for Levelling Up, Dehenna Davison MP, so that members of the APPG could ask her questions on our APPG Report “Next Steps in Levelling Up the Former Coalfields”, which we launched in Parliament on 12th June 2023. Specifically, recommendations 1, 2, 9, 10, and 12, which you can read here. The Minister confirmed that the next round of Levelling Up funds would be round 3, reflecting previous rounds, and application bids should be shelf ready to go with no conflict in community input and vision. Representatives pointed out that the round 2 bidding process was very complicated with lots of forms to complete, and it should be simplified. Round 2 had built up expectations in councils that their bids would be approved, councils had spent lots of money to formulate bids, which were rarely granted, and there was a lack of private sector support. Also, when a bid was successful it has to be spent in 18 months, which I pointed out is a very short timeframe compared with former European funding which allowed 7 years, with the option of a 3-year extension. And the financial settlement provided to Wales is not enough to level up the coalfield communities in Wales. The APPG was very well attended by MPs and Peers, plus representatives from Coalfields Communities, including: Trade Unions; Councillors; and the Coalfields Regeneration Trust.

As vice-chair of the Climate Change APPG, I attended the roundtable discussion with Dr Steve Pye, Associate Professor at UCL, who spoke about what climate science says about phasing out oil and gas production and his research focusing on net zero pathways, energy system decarbonisation and securing UK energy independence; Tessa Khan, CEO Uplift, provided an overview of the state of UK oil and gas policy, and how transitioning away from oil and gas production can also tackle issues around energy security, and the cost of living crisis; Louise Borrows, Climate and Energy Lead For the Beyond Oil and Gas Coalition (BOGA), who was on a secondment to the Cabinet Office for COP 26 and was joint head of the energy campaign for the UK’s COP Presidency Year. She led the delivery of multiple projects including ending fossil finance, no new coal, methane, and directing the Presidency’s approach to gas, and she successfully cemented and led the “Glasgow Statement” signatories as a government coalition for change; and Darren Proctor, National Secretary of RMT Union, spoke about worker’s views on moving away from oil and gas and how a just transition can happen. See upliftuk.org

The APPG for Steel and Related Metal Industries received an update on the Trade Remedies Authority (TRA) from TRA officials: Edward Smith, Investigator; Timothy Sharp, Lead Investigator; and Katherine Newton-McGee, Head of Investigations. The members of the APPG questioned the TRA officials on: how the TRA is reviewing the safeguards, what are they doing and how can steel producers and users contribute to the review; and what are the timelines for the review. The TRA has instigated the review regarding the extension of the UK steel safeguards beyond 30 June 2024 covering the 15 product categories that are currently subject to the measure. The maximum they can be extended is another two years to June 2026, and it is vital that this will be the outcome of the review. UK Steel will be presenting evidence to the TRA, and engaging with the relevant stakeholders to ensure the best outcome is achieved. The TRA preliminary determination will be published in February 2024, and the Secretary of State for Business and Trade will make the final decision by 30 June 2024 on whether to maintain the safeguards for another two years. MPs asked the TRA officers how the economic injury would be assessed, in the context of EU safeguards and whilst US S232 tariffs remains in place. Removing UK safeguards would lead to a huge influx of diverted imports from countries that face much lower energy costs, and benefit from subsidies and other unfair competitive advantages.

Alzheimer’s Research UK is the leading dementia research charity in the UK working to revolutionise the way we treat, diagnose, and prevent dementia. Almost 1 million people are living with dementia in the UK today. One in two of us will be directly affected in our lifetime, either by caring for someone with the condition, developing it ourselves, or both. We are at tipping point. New ways of diagnosing the diseases that cause dementia earlier and more accurately like blood tests for Alzheimer’s disease are showing promise. New treatments that can affect the course of Alzheimer’s disease could be available in the UK in just a few months’ time. New insights are showing how we can reduce the prevalence of dementia in the first place by addressing factors that affect our brain health. I support the charity’s recommendations: to set up a UK cross-governmental strategy for the prevention of ill health to address the health and lifestyle factors that affect our risk of developing dementia; invest in the current diagnostic pathway to make it fit for purpose and fit for the future; ensure new dementia treatments are available on the NHS as soon as possible; and establish the UK as a world leader in dementia research. Contact Alzheimersresearchuk.org 

Western Gateway held a Parliamentary reception to celebrate the launch of its Western Gateway 2050 Rail Vision published earlier this year. The Vision is transformational – connecting local communities at risk of being left behind; deliverable – building on a pipeline of schemes already underway; investable – ready for the public and private sector to enhance communities and add at least £34bn to the UK economy by 2030. The Western Gateway APPG co-chairs Jess Morden MP and the Rt Hon Sir Robert Buckland MP introduced and closed the event. Katherine Bennett CBE, Chair of the Western Gateway, said that the vision is not about asking the UK Government for instant investment, or building a new high speed trainline, it’s a long-term vision supported by cross-party leaders and the Western Gateway APPG, because the region has huge potential to deliver the UK’s sustainable and net zero future economy and unlock a greener, fairer, future. We heard from guest speakers: my dear friend Baroness Debbie Wilcox, who as the former Leader of Newport Council and former leader of the Welsh Local Government Authority who was instrumental in setting up Western Gateway; Huw Merriman MP, UK Government Rail Minister; Louise Haigh MP, Labour Shadow Transport Secretary; Stephen Morgan MP, Labour Shadow Rail Minister; Council Leaders within the Western Gateway Region; and representatives from Transport for Wales, Network Rail, and GWR. Read the vision report here.

I was honoured to deliver the second reading at the annual Service of Thanksgiving for Victory in The Battle of Britain in St David’s Church Neath, which was organised by Neath & Swansea Branches of the Royal Air Force Association (Neath 617 Branch). The first reading was delivered by Louise Fleet CStJ, JP, the Lord Lieutenant of West Glamorgan and the congregation listened to the usual, thought-provoking sermon by our wonderful Avon Nedd Ministry Area Leader, The Reverend Canon Lynda Newman. After the service, we gathered at the Memorial Gates, Gnoll Grounds, to place wreaths in memory of those service people who gave their lives to achieve peace in the world, and play the Last Post, before a minutes’ silence, and Reveille. We Will Remember Them.

As vice-chair of the APPG on Restorative Justice (RJ) I was honoured to be at the launch of our APPG Investigation: Implementing restorative practices in education, health, and social care report authored by our Advisory Board. The report was introduced by the Advisory Board Chairman, and CEO of the Restorative Justice Council, Jim Simon. The investigation focused on the current implementation and impact of restorative practice in non-judicial settings across the UK. The findings and subsequent recommendations are based on the reported experience of restorative practitioners working in education, health, and social care who embraced the opportunity to contribute evidence of their successes and pointed out improvements that could be made. The APPG calls on UK Government to use this report and its recommendations to shape future public policy and develop a cohesive strategy for the long-term implementation of restorative justice. Read the report here. Jim and our APPG chair Elliot Colburn MP will be meeting the UK Government Justice Minister, Ed Argar MP, on 12th September to discuss our report, the benefits of implementing restorative justice, and the Victims and Prisoners Bill. After the meeting they will fully brief the members of the APPG on the outcome of the meeting. Jim outlined details of the first annual Northern Ireland RJC Conference in Belfast on 14/15th September on which he will report back to the next APPG in October. There will also be an APPG Parliamentary Drop In event on 30th October in the Thames Pavilion which will highlight the work of RJC in education, health, social care, and the devolved nations.

I joined the online meeting of the APPG for Child Maintenance Service (CMS) to hear evidence from voluntary organisations, including: Gingerbread; women who have been let down by the CMS; and MPs who receive so much casework from constituents who are suffering because the child maintenance payments that have been agreed following the split up of partners in a relationship, are not being paid by the relevant partner towards the upkeep of the children. The children, and parent who has custody of the children, are struggling to survive without the maintenance payments that they are owed. The CMS was set up by the UK Government in December 2012. There is a £20 application fee, unless the parent or child is a victim of domestic abuse, or the applicant parent is under 19 years old. There are two methods of payment: Direct Pay which can be chosen by either parent with agreement of the other, there is no collection fee; Collect and Pay, whereby the CMS calculates the amount of maintenance due and collects it from the paying parent, and pays it to the receiving parent, but there is a 20% fee for the paying parent on top of the maintenance payments and 4% is taken off the maintenance paid to the receiving parent. In the interests of fairness, the DWP should consider removing the 4% charge from receiving parents. Since set up in 2012 there is £547.9 million in unpaid arrears, i.e 8%. In the last quarter, to March 2023, of UK Government statistics, £237 million was due by Direct Pay, but the DWP does not measure how much of this is unpaid. £72 million was due by Collect and Pay of which £22.9 million was unpaid. In my Neath constituency my excellent and diligent staff have resolved many CMS cases, mostly where the paying parent has disputed the amount of maintenance they have been asked to pay, stating that they can’t afford the payments, and so lapse into arrears, and are not able to make up the arrears amount. The receiving parent raises this with the CMS, and the paying parent is placed on direct payments taken from their wages, but this is not possible if they are paid in cash. If the paying parent receives a below 25% wage increase the CMS will not trigger a change of circumstances to increase the payments. Also, if the paying parent is receiving benefits, they are obliged to only pay the CMS minimum of £7 per week.

I was pleased to support the WI Week of River Action Parliamentary launch event, which kicked off their new Clean Rivers campaign which seeks to tackle river pollution and to promote the designation of more bathing waters. The WI will endeavour to raise awareness of the ecological state of the UK’s rivers and draw public attention to the importance of clean rivers for people and for wildlife in their communities.

I attended another APPG Christians in Parliament Chapel service with my friend Baroness Anita Gale. The Reading was from Mark 1:14-15, and there was a talk by Paul Woolley, CEO of The London Institute of Contemporary Christianity, entitled “Growing confidence: Recovering the Gospel as Good News”.

I supported UNICEF’s launch calling on the UK Government for a Baby and Toddler Guarantee as part of its Early Moments Matter campaign to support families with young children to ensure that babies and toddlers have the best start in life across the UK. UNICEF’s latest research reveals the pressures families with young children are under and how the cost-of-living crisis is impacting children. YouGov polled parents and guardians of at least one child aged 0-4 years old living in Great Britain. Poll findings for Wales (National average in brackets): 79% said the cost of living has negatively impacted their family lives (78%); 65% have struggled with their mental health (61%); 67% believe it’s harder to be a parent now than their parents’ generation (70%); 66% are worried about their child’s future life chances (66%); 55% can’t afford to give their child the life they want (50%); 44% had less time to read, play, cook healthy meals than last year (37%).

I dropped into the ABTA The Travel Association and UK inbound event on potential solutions to improve youth mobility between the UK and Europe. Tourism is a vitally important soft power and a global success story for the UK and youth mobility whether for education, work or travel, makes a significant contribution to both the UK economy and in Neath where in 2019, over 241 jobs were supported by the inbound tourism sector and over 300 jobs were supported by the outbound tourism sector. The youth and student travel market sees 25 million travellers per year; young travellers support over 265,00 jobs in the education sector; and the outward-bound travel industry is worth more than £37.1 billion a year to the UK economy, 1.8% of GDP, supporting 526,000 jobs across the UK. Therefore, it is important for the UK Government to work with the UK tourism industry to reinvigorate youth mobility through expansion of the Youth Mobility Scheme, development of collective passports, and digitisation.

As a vice-chair of the Show Racism the Red Card APPG, it was an honour to attend a meeting with parliamentarians, to promote the 9th annual Wear Red Day #WRD23 which will be held on Friday 20th October 2023, organised by the wonderful Ged Grebby, Founder of Show Racim the Red Card, who works full time to stamp out racism at all levels of society. Racism is abhorrent and I was proud to wear my Show Racism the Red Card red t-shirt and stand in solidarity with campaigners.

As a former chair of the APPG for Sport I supported my dear friend Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, the chair of Sport Wales, who hosted a parliamentary event to strive to make the UK the most active nation in Europe. The event was organised by Active Partnerships; CIMSPA; Sport for Development Coalition; Sport Recreation Alliance; Local Government Association; UK Active and the Youth Sport Trust. Currently, the UK is the 11th most inactive nation, and the 3rd highest spenders on healthcare costs associated with inactivity. The sport, recreation, and physical activity sectors’ leading bodies are urgently calling on political parties to commit to making it easier for people to play, move, and be active in any way they choose by ensuring that sport, recreation, and physical activity is accessible and affordable to everyone. We can build a future where: all children are given the best possible start, gaining habits and skills to manage their physical and mental wellbeing, living longer and healthier lives; preventing and improving community health leads to significantly less pressure on NHS and other public services; our streets and communities will be safer, happier, and greener places to be; our economy will be boosted by a healthier workforce that increases productivity and lengthens people’s employment. Turning this vision into reality will not be easy, and will take time, but we believe it can and must be done. We urge the current and future governments to put sport, recreation, and physical activity at the heart of national policy making working closely with the sector and devolved governments of all the Home Nations on a programme of reforms including: building a common evidence base of the benefits to drive better funding; more and better targeting investment to create modern sustainable places and spaces to be active to drive up participation unlocking the power of sport for social good. It was a lovely surprise to meet Emily Reynolds, National Programmes Director, Youth Sport Trust, who is from Glynneath and the daughter of my dear friend Gerry Reynolds. Emily has worked for Youth Sport Trust for over 8 years and was deputising at the event for her CEO, Ali Oliver, who unfortunately couldn’t attend, otherwise our paths may never have crossed, and I would not have had the wonderful opportunity to meet Emily, who I am sure will become a close friend too. Read “Unlocking the Potential” 

I attended the Asthma + Lung UK transport policy Parliamentary event called “putting the brakes on toxic air” and received a briefing on the Cleaner Travel Access Fund (CTAF). We heard that polluting vehicles are fuelling toxic air and the climate crisis, and millions of people are breathing unsafe levels of air pollution. 97% of the UK’s 33 million cars still run on petrol and diesel, releasing pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide, particulate matter, and carbon dioxide into the air. Road transport is responsible for nearly 50% of all nitrogen oxide air pollution. There is no safe level of air pollution but tens of millions across the UK are breathing levels of air pollution that are against the law. Babies, children, pregnant women, older people, and those with existing lung conditions are more vulnerable. Air pollution is costing the NHS and Social Care services millions every year and contributes to up to 43,000 early UK deaths every year. The least responsible for air pollution are often the most exposed. The poorest people live nearest busy roads and worst air pollution levels are in ethnically diverse neighbourhoods, but there is less car ownership in these groups. The CTAF is a scrappage scheme of £777 million aimed at people on low incomes and those whose mobility is affected by long term health conditions to swap their polluting vehicles in exchange for a £3000 grant per household to use public transport, buy active travel, or put towards an electric vehicle.

I attended the Parliamentary launch of a report by the Women’s Budget Group, funded by the Community Justice Fund entitled Gender Gaps in Access to Civil Legal Justice. We listened to guest speakers: Rt Hon Emily Thornberry MP, Labour Shadow Attorney General; Dr Zubaida Haque report author; Isabel Langdale, Project Manager Women’s Homelessness, Homeless Link; and Pamela Fitzpatrick, Director of Harris Law Centre, discuss the findings of the report and what needs to happen to close the gender civil justice gap. The report drew on survey data collected from 115 organisations and services across England and Wales, and explores the gender disparities in accessing civil legal justice, and the pressing needs, barriers, and adverse impacts faced by women. The discussion focused on the types of civil law issues women seek help for, from employment law to family and immigration law, the consequences of the changes in scope including the LASPO Act 2012, and the solutions to help women from all backgrounds. Key findings from respondents include: 85% said vulnerable women are unable to access civil legal aid, 77% said a major consequence of the legal aid changes is women reaching crisis point of problems escalating before they receive legal help or advice, 48% reported domestic violence as a key issue, the most widespread employment law issue is pregnancy/maternity discrimination, and the reduced scope of what is covered by legal aid plus the reduced amount of legal aid available disproportionately affects women. The report’s recommendations included: more research into the impact of LASPO 2012; improving access to legal aid for employment law, thresholds and time limits should be increased; intervene with support sooner to avoid litigation and keep cases out of tribunals; better legal training for solicitors, and embed this in GPs/housing/homelessness/services, and food banks; improve general public legal education at a local level; and more cross-sector collaboration to build on expertise and knowledge and facilitate referrals to legal advisers. Read the report www.wbg.org.uk

I attended a very important event organised by One Million LivesR;ipple, and Make A Difference Media, held during Suicide Prevention Week. One Million Lives is a free mental health check to help you understand how you are currently coping and provide suggestions for building resilience. Checking is important even if you feel well because the sooner you check the earlier you can make changes to stay well. Alice Henry lost her brother Josh in November 2020 to suicide. Josh had been searching for suicide techniques on the internet. Alice set up R;ipple which is a free digital resource for parents, schools, and charities that discreetly intercepts harmful internet searches and signposts to 24/7 free mental health support. Make A Difference Media provides a global learning space for employers looking to embed preventive strategies that will have a sustainable impact on workplace wellbeing, culture, and environment. We learned how vital language matters to avoid perpetuating negative stereotypes about suicide. For example: we must not say commit or committing suicide, because this implies it’s a sin or a crime, rather we should say died by suicide or lost their life to suicide. We must not say you’re not going to do anything silly are you, because you want to show you are not dismissing or making fun of how they are feeling, rather we should say have you been thinking of killing yourself. We must not say successful or unsuccessful suicide, because this implies that suicide is an achievement or something positive, rather we should say lived through a suicide attempt.

I was privileged to be granted a Westminster Hall Debate about Sepsis by Mr Speaker on 13th September which is World Sepsis Day. I began my speech with a tribute to Dame Cheryl Gillan, who tragically died in April 2021. I was extremely surprised and honoured to be asked by Dame Cheryl to take over from her as chair of the Sepsis APPG when she stood down in March 2021. It was a shock to me and most parliamentarians when Dame Cheryl died only a month after I took over as chair. Why did Dame Cheryl choose me? It could be that when I became a member of the APPG in 2017, Dame Cheryl and I had a cup of tea because she wanted to listen to my Sepsis story. I am one of the very fortunate people who contracted Sepsis (in August 2013), and survived. I owe my life to my friend Jen Smith who kept taking me back to the NHS when I didn’t improve after many weeks of not being diagnosed with Sepsis, and the consultant surgeon at the Heath Hospital, Dr John Jones, who correctly identified Sepsis and operated immediately to save my life. I have done my very best to chair the APPG but I have had enormous help from Sarah Hamilton-Fairly and Dr Ron Daniels of the UK Sepsis Trust. Sepsis is a global health concern, and it occurs when the body’s responses to infection causes injury to its tissues and organs. It is not known why some people develop Sepsis in response to infections, whereas others do not. My source of Sepsis remains a mystery. Sepsis is often referred to as the “silent killer” because of its ability to strike swiftly and unexpectedly. In the UK 245,000 cases are reported every year, leading to over 48,000 deaths, and the leading cause of avoidable deaths – more than breast, bowel, and prostate cancer combined. Around 40% of people who develop Sepsis are estimated to suffer physical, cognitive and/or psychological after-effects. Most recover after a few weeks but others develop Post Sepsis Syndrome. One of the biggest challenges is early diagnosis because Sepsis can mimic other common illnesses, with similar symptoms, such as fever, increased heart rate, rapid breathing, confusion, and extreme pain. I suffered with most of these symptoms plus a swollen face, so I was diagnosed with toothache and mouth abscesses. The UK Sepsis Trust has worked tirelessly to educate health care providers and the public to improve early detection. Their “Sepsis Six” care and treatment pathway has been implemented in 96% of hospitals across the UK and in 37 other countries to ensure rapid and effective treatment. But there is confusion amongst clinicians because the Sepsis NICE Guideline NG 51 has not been updated since 2016, despite being scheduled for updated publication in June 2023, and which now conflicts with the position statement from the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges. I asked the UK Government Under Secretary of State for Heath and Social Care , Maria Caulfield MP, who was responding to my debate, to tell the House: the publication date for the updated NG 51; the model and implementation date for Martha’s Rule, which would give families a right to a second diagnosis, advocated by Martha’s grieving parents because Martha tragically died from Sepsis; if her UK Government would replicate the 10 million Swiss Francs (£9 million) of state funding announced by the Swiss Government for implementing Sepsis improvement over a 5 year period; and would she meet with me, Dr Ron Daniels, and Sarah Hamilton-Fairly to discuss setting up a National Sepsis Register, because unlike data for heart attacks, strokes and cancer, Sepsis data is imprecise, and relies on coded administrative data, rather than granular, clinical, data of patient level registries. The Under Secretary said that The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care was meeting Martha’s family later that day, and she will update members on the outcome and how Martha’s Rule will be implemented; since 2017 the National Institute of Health and Social Care has funded 14 Sepsis research projects with a combined value of £27 million but stressed that further applications would be welcomed; and that she will meet me and anyone I want to bring with me. Before being elected to Parliament in 2015, the Under Secretary was an NHS nurse for twenty years, specialising in cancer research, and I am optimistic that she really understands the issues surrounding Sepsis. On World Sepsis Day we remember those who have lost their lives, and those whose lives have been affected by Sepsis.

I attended the APPG for Drugs, Alcohol and Justice to discuss the role of the voluntary sector in drug and alcohol treatment and recovery. The meeting was so well attended that we need to find a bigger room in Parliament to hold future meetings. We heard from guest speakers: Jess Mullen, CEO, Collective Voice; Dr Roya Vaziri, Medical Director, Humankind; and Michelle Foster, Founder and CEO, The Basement Recovery Project. All speakers described the treatment and recovery projects they have been successfully running, and the parliamentarians and stakeholders had the opportunity to make comments or question the speakers.

Member of Parliament for Beckenham, Bob Stewart, has welcomed the Government’s £48 million investment through the Skills Investment Fund, boosting the rollout of Higher Technical Qualifications (HTQs) and equipping students from all backgrounds with the high-quality, higher-level skills needed to…

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New Hospital in Sutton Confirmed

Paul Scully (Sutton and Cheam)

I am delighted to write and tell you that local NHS leaders have confirmed plans for a new hospital to be built in Sutton and to upgrade facilities at St Helier. This represents a £500 MILLION plan that will not only build a brand new state of the art hospital near to the Royal Marsden by 2025, but ALSO invest AT LEAST £80 MILLION into upgrades at St Helier.

The new specialist emergency care hospital, just a few minutes from St Helier, would treat the sickest 15% of patients, those normally arriving by ambulance. This larger specialist team would be available 24 hours a day to diagnose what is wrong with patients more rapidly, start the best treatment faster, and help patients recover more quickly. St Helier and Epsom Hospitals will remain open 24/7, with updated and improved facilities, providing all the other services that they currently do.

My children were born at St. Helier so healthcare provision in Sutton has been an issue that is a very personal one to me. Ever since being a councillor in Carshalton, some 14 years ago, I have been campaigning for a solution that protects the future of St. Helier whilst ensuring that Sutton residents have access to the very best treatment in cutting edge modern healthcare facilities. I believe that this decision can finally put to rest the political arguments so that we can get on with doing what’s best for residents across the whole of the borough of Sutton.

With this plan, the refurbished St Helier Hospital is here to stay providing the majority of local health services, and the sickest patients will get state-of-the-art treatment in the brand-new specialist emergency hospital right here in our area.

You can find out more about the plans, including the answers to some frequently asked questions at the NHS’ website: www.improvinghealthcaretogether.org.uk. You can also contact them at hello@improvinghealthcaretogether.org.uk, or get in touch with me with any queries.

IMPORTANT QUESTIONS & ANSWERS ABOUT THESE PROPOSALS

Why is this being done?

To improve the care that we receive. As St Helier’s buildings continue to age over time, it’s necessary to upgrade our healthcare facilities to improve outcomes. Surviving illness and recovering quickly is the number one priority.

Is St Helier closing?

No, quite the opposite. St Helier is here to stay with a multi-million-pound improvement package.

Is a new hospital being built?

Yes. A new specialist emergency care hospital will be built in Sutton, in addition to improving St Helier hospital.

Is St Helier getting an upgrade?

Yes. At least £80 million of the funding promised will go towards improving the facilities at St Helier hospital.

Who developed these proposals?

For the first time, we have a plan that was developed by local clinicians, not national bureaucrats or politicians. Local healthcare professionals made the case for funding to deliver this improvement, which has been rewarded with a £500 million investment. Sutton Council also supported the proposals last year.

Will I have to travel outside my area for services now?

At the moment, if you have a stroke or heart attack you will be taken past St. Helier to be treated at St. George’s. This plan means that we will still be able to treat people within the local area, not moving more services away from Sutton.

Will we still use St Helier?

Yes. From 2025, Epsom hospital, St Helier hospital and the new hospital at Sutton will all have a 24/7 Urgent Treatment Centre (UTC) (which already treats the vast majority of people going to St. Helier in an emergency). Under the plans, 85% of services will remain at St Helier. Both Epsom and St Helier hospitals will still have a 24/7 UTC.

Diagnostic tests, such as MRI, x-ray or ultrasound, the heart problem diagnosis unit, the dialysis unit, Croft Ward (which takes care of patients who are stable but not ready to leave hospital), the eye care unit, the gastroenterology unit, and so many more services are staying put at Epsom and St Helier hospitals.

What about bed numbers?

The NHS have calculated that they will need the same number of beds as they do now.

What about A&E?

Unlike previous plans, which saw A&E diverted away into Tooting, A&E is now staying right here in our Borough at the new hospital. Most of the time you will still use St Helier for matters requiring immediate medical attention like broken limbs or cuts. Major trauma cases needing a blue light ambulance transfer will be treated in Sutton at the new state-of-the-art hospital next to The Royal Marsden.

What about maternity services?

Maternity services have also been protected and kept locally. Post-natal and ante-natal care are staying put at Epsom and St Helier hospitals, and births will take place in the brand-new maternity unit at the new hospital in Sutton built to the very latest healthcare standards. Women need the very best care and facilities when giving birth, and the new plans will provide that.

Where will children services be provided?

Most children will continue to receive care and treatment in the same place as they do now. Care for children who need to stay in hospital overnight – as a result of a serious illness or complex problems – will be treated at the new specialist emergency care hospital. This includes children’s surgery.  

What will happen until the new hospital in Sutton is built?

All services will continue to be carried out at Epsom and St Helier hospitals until such time the new hospital in Sutton is ready for patients.

Where will the new hospital be built?

After consulting residents, patient groups and healthcare professionals, the decision was taken to build a brand-new specialist emergency care hospital in Sutton. This will be combined with the necessary infrastructure and transport links to ensure the site of the new hospital is accessible to all that need to use it.

For more facts, and to find out what this multi-million-pound government investment in our local NHS will mean for you and your family, visit the following website: www.improvinghealthcaretogether.org.uk/faq.

Stephen Metcalfe (South Basildon and East Thurrock)

This website is discontinued. Please visit my new website: StephenMetcalfe.org.uk 

MP meets South Downs farmers

Nick Herbert (Arundel and South Downs)

Arundel and South Downs MP Nick Herbert met South Downs farmers on Friday (19 January) to discuss the challenges they face as Britain leaves the EU and…

Mhairi Black to Young People: Don’t let the Tories leave you behind

Mhairi Black (Paisley and Renfrewshire South)

A vote for the SNP is a vote to stand up for young people against the Tories, Mhairi Black has said, she urged young voters to use their voice in this Thursday’s election.
In government, the SNP has protected and expanded the Education Maintenance Allowance which has been scrapped south of the border, and has abolished university tuition fees in Scotland while the Tories have increased them to £27,000.

The SNP has also increased the number of Modern Apprenticeships, with a target of 30,000 new starts by the end of this Parliament.

The SNP manifesto commits to a real Living Wage – projected to be just over £10 by the end of the parliament for all workers aged 18 and above – creating a new single adult rate.

SNP MPs will also support a ban on exploitative zero-hours contracts and will support votes at 16 at all elections.

Commenting, Mhairi Black said:

“A vote for the SNP is a vote for a strong team of MPs who’ll stand up for young people – calling for a fair and equal minimum wage, protecting rights in the workplace and votes at 16 in all elections.

“The SNP are already delivering for Scotland’s young people, delivering free university education and with youth unemployment at the lowest level on record – while the Tory vision is just cut after cut.

“The Tories think they can do anything they want to young people and get away with it – from hiking tuition fees to slashing housing benefit for young people and much more.

“That’s why it’s so important that young people turn up and vote – don’t let the Tory government leave you behind.

“Any Tory MPs elected in Scotland will simply rubberstamp whatever the Tory government does to young people, and Labour can’t win this election in Scotland – meaning that voting Labour risks letting Tory MPs in by the back door.

“Now more than ever, it is vital to have strong SNP voices standing up for Scotland. Only then can we protect Scotland from the dangers of an unopposed Tory government at Westminster.”

Notes:

Here’s how strong SNP voices will stand up for young people at Westminster.

– SNP MPs won’t let the Tories trade away Scottish jobs in the Brexit negotiations – we will work to protect Scotland’s place in the Single Market.

– We will back a transition over the next parliamentary term towards payment of the real Living wage for all adults above the age of 18. This will mean a new single adult rate and will see the UK minimum wage to rise to the real Living Wage, projected to be just over £10.

– We will guarantee the continuation of free university education in Scotland, protecting students in Scotland from paying up to £27,000 of fees.

– In Scotland, we are mitigating the Tory decision to withdraw housing support from 18 to 21 year olds. We will fight for the restoration of this support across the UK, alongside scrapping the Bedroom Tax.

– SNP MPs will look to introduce our own legislative proposals to give 16 and 17 year olds a vote in all elections.

– In Scotland, youth unemployment is already at the lowest level on record. SNP MPs will support the devolution of employment and employability powers so we can extend our successful approach on youth employment.

– To help businesses create jobs, we will propose a doubling of the Employment Allowance – the discount businesses receive on National Insurance when they create jobs.

– We will press the UK government to ban exploitative zero-hours contracts, and to ensure that workers have appropriate rights and protections, including holiday and sick pay. And we will work to ensure that the rights and protections currently safeguarded by EU membership are not diminished.

– We will work to protect opportunities for young people to study and train in other European countries through the ERASMUS+ scheme.

– We will continue to work with Scotland’s universities and institutions to seek clarity from the UK government on what will replace EU research funding for Scotland’s universities.

On being a woman in politics

Alison Thewliss (Glasgow Central)

A few things have recently been rattling around in my head which concern women in politics; I've been trying to gather some ideas as to why there aren't more of us, and how I might encourage female candidates to come forward. At the same time, I noticed that the launch of the Counting Women In campaign, couldn't miss the outrageous attack on Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP, and I've been enjoying Winnie Ewing's very readable autobiography. I've also been out on the doorsteps for Ken Andrew in Hillhead.

All of these together really say: the culture of politics in the UK is what's at fault. Women don't think it's for them and just disengage. 


Now, obviously that's a generalisation. I'm a woman, and I'm very engaged in politics. I'm prepared to accept I'm a bit odd.


I chapped on a door the other week while canvassing. I had Alexander with me in the pram. A woman answered, I politely introduced myself and my purpose on her doorstep - she shook her head and told me she wasn't interested. I asked why. She firmly asserted that all politicians are just the same. I asked her if anyone from any political party had ever come to see her with a baby in a pram. She thought briefly, admitted that'd never happened, and sent me on my way. 

I'm not sure whether that experience tells me whether I ought to a) leave the wee man at home or b) work on my doorstep pizzaz, but I bet that woman had opinions on all kinds of things. I don't think she believes them to be particularly political - provision of care services, or bin collection, say - but in the end they're determined by politicians. I want women like her to tell me what she wants and why it matters. More than that, I want women who care about issues to join political parties to further that cause. There are all kinds of causes promoted within the SNP, and I will most likely welcome you in.


I'm sure I've said before that I've always felt welcomed as a woman in the SNP, and that remains true. I'm not sure how Labour men treat women in general (not great by some accounts, which appear to be no barrier to reselection), but they're certainly not great at giving SNP women the respect they are due.

I recalled hearing when Winnie's book came out that she had been bullied while at Westminster. The Scotsman's 2007 interview put it thus:

As the lone SNP member in the Commons - at best an intimidating place for an inexperienced politician - she found herself without friends, without party colleagues, without any supporting structures. She was completely alone. She was hundreds of miles from her husband and her children in an excessively macho and very hostile environment. "I was treated as the enemy, I was shunned and despised. It's a peculiar experience to suddenly find yourself hated. At times I did feel terribly lonely, close to despair." 

Reading the autobiography, you really get a vivid picture of the pressure Winnie Ewing was under as an MP on her own. Her every action was scrutinised; if she didn't attend a debate, the other parties would ensure it got in the papers. The nuances of what said were taken apart. She was under political and personal attack from all sides and, even more sinister, stalked by another MP. Interventions by others had some impact, but it must have been a great emotional strain.

What I didn't know was that when Winnie was appointed as an MEP (pre-democratic elections to Europe), the bad behaviour of two particular Labour bullies continued in the European Parliament when she was alone again, deliberately working to ridicule and undermine her for over a year. By the account in the autobiography, this only ended when the President of the Parliament intervened, threatening to have them withdrawn as being "not fit to represent their country and Parliament in Europe".


You might think that, around forty years later, a female SNP MP might expect some kind of change to have occurred in attitudes, as with wider society. Women are accepted in a range of jobs, universities are gaining majorities of female students, there are innumerable opportunities and directions for careers. And then, there's Ian Davidson MP.

Eilidh has written a revealing article in the Scotland on Sunday - I'd urge you to read the full article, but I think this small quote does illustrate the point perfectly:

"It does not matter that all I had done was disagree with the committee. In fact what inspired Mr Davidson’s remark is utterly irrelevant. There is no action, no misbehaviour that justifies the threat or act of “a doing”. We hear too often of women being told they were “asking for it” in justification for intimidation or violence. I never expected to hear that from an MP in Parliament.

But this is not simply an issue of aggression towards woman; it’s about a culture of intimidation and bullying affecting men and women that seems to flourish with impunity in the Westminster world."

The tragedy is that it's primarily through this Westminster lens that the viewing population sees politics and politicians. They see argument, they see confrontation; they see crowds of boorish suits moaning a weary "hear hear". And they switch off. They say "that's not for me".

They don't see a politician arguing the case with a housing association, trying to help a vulnerable tenant. They don't see someone working on a committee, trying to improve a policy that will help improve children's health. They don't see the joy that is presenting prizes to year groups of school students, with the hope that you can encourage them in that tiny second as you shake their hand. They don't know what a privilege it is to be invited into so many lives and homes, to meet with groups and organisations and offer what help you can.

The work of politics should never be that yah boo nonsense that men excel at and so many women hate. More women should be in politics for the fantastic difference they can make every day.


Made by @davorg / Last built: Saturday 20 April 2024 12:33