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Alex raises concern about Tees Probation Service

Alex Cunningham (Stockton North)

Local probation services under threat from being swallowed up by private-sector conglomerates

One of the best run not-for-profit probation services in the Tees Valley risks being swallowed up by a large private contractor as part of the Government’s reforms to the rehabilitation sector.

Alex Cunningham, MP for Stockton North, asked in Parliament what Ministers were going to do to protect the Tees service, probably the most successful in the country, from being taken over but got little comfort from the answer having been given no guarantee it would have a future.

In the answer to Parliamentary questions he was told that despite carrying out consultations in the summer of 2018, the government confirmed there had been no comparative assessment reports of for-profit and not-for-profit Community Rehabilitation Companies has been undertaken by the Ministry of Justice.

Alex said:  “If the government hasn’t even bothered to look at the effectiveness of different models how on earth can they get the contract right.  The Durham Tees Valley service was according to independent assessment not just the best in the country but certainly the best one to work for.  Yet the Minister seemed content to see it swallowed up by one of the profit taking massive companies that think they can do better.”

Alex has also expressed deep concern that the new contractual arrangements will not being ready by the time current contractors with community rehabilitations terminate in 2020.  He wrote to the Ministry of Justice about this matter and Lucy Frazer, and the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State responded saying that the government does have appropriate contingency plans in place to ensure that probation services can continue to be delivered.

Alex said: “The Minister made this broad sweeping claim but didn’t shed any light on what these plans are.  It’s time they published them – if they exist.”

Gwynne joins MPs in World Cancer Day pledge

Andrew Gwynne (Denton and Reddish)

Denton and Reddish MP, Andrew Gwynne, has given his support to those affected by cancer and the NHS staff who care for them at a special Westminster event for World Cancer Day, earlier this month. 

Gwynne met with campaigners from Cancer Research UK to learn about the charity’s latest research and show [his/her] support for all those working to ensure more people survive cancer. Every year roughly 1,500 people the the local area are diagnosed with cancer and in the UK 1 in 2 people  will be diagnosed with the disease at some point in their lifetime.

Early diagnosis is a vital part of ensuring more people survive cancer. The Government has made a commitment to diagnose 75% of cancer cases in England at stage one or stage two by 2028.

However, to reach this target the NHS needs a long-term plan for the cancer workforce. Without this, there will not be enough specialist staff to meet the present pressures or cope with the growing and ageing population.

Andrew Gwynne said:

“World Cancer Day helps to raise awareness of the scale of the challenge and the role we can all play in the fight against the disease. Cancer affects us all – here in the UK and all around the world. We can all work together to beat it, not just the hard-working researchers and NHS staff who help to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer.


“Small actions really can make a big difference to the lives of people with cancer. That’s why I’m urging people in Denton and Reddish to show their  support all year round.”

Shaun Walsh, Head of Public Affairs and Campaigning at Cancer Research UK, said:

“A big thank you to Andrew Gwynne for joining us to raise awareness on World Cancer Day. Parliament has a big part to play in ensuring we work together to beat cancer sooner, and the shared ambition to diagnose more cancers earlier in the years ahead is a welcome one.


“Now to achieve a truly world-leading service and reach our goal of 3 in 4 people surviving cancer by 2034, we need to fill current vacancies in the cancer workforce and invest for the long term to produce NHS cancer professionals for today and generations to come.”


Martin Docherty (West Dunbartonshire)

With just weeks to go until Brexit, there’s a sense of déjà vu as the UK government descends ever further into chaos. After suffering the worst defeat in parliamentary history, the Prime Minister continues to be humiliated over their failing … Continue reading


Richard Burden (Birmingham, Northfield)

The loss of Honda’s Swindon plant is a bitter blow to the automotive sector in the UK and devastating for the 3,500 people who work there. Representing the area of Longbridge, I know the impact that closure of car plant has on families whose livelihoods depend on it. The reasons for Honda’s decision today are […]

I am deleting contributions  to the site  that wrongly ascribe the planned closure of Honda Swindon to Brexit given the very clear statements made by Honda that is about other matters. I will comment in more detail tomorrow.

The workforce at Swindon is skilled and capable, and I wish to see the government and Council offer all the help they can to ensure that in the run up to closure good jobs are found to replace the lost Honda jobs.

A charity is appealing for funding to convert an abandoned building in Weston-super-Mare’s town centre into the UK’s first cannabis education centre.

Faces Training Support wants to raise £30,000 to redevelop the former Visions Art Glass Studio building, in Station Road, into a safe space for youngsters to learn more about the class B drug.

The charity’s founder, Steve Melhuish, aims to educate and support under-18s with cannabis-related problems through mentoring and support groups.

Steve’s brother, Robert Cox, was stabbed to death at the Stoneham Egerton Road Project in Bristol in 2013, a home for vulnerable people with mental health problems.

Robert was recovering from issues linked to drug abuse.

Steve wants to offer training programmes designed to educate people on the dangers of continued use of the substance from childhood.

Harm prevention workshops on issues such as county lines drug dealing, which has had a devastating impact on the town in recent years, knife amnesty and cannabis testing for chemicals will also take place and talks with Weston College and North Somerset Council are ongoing.

Steve said: “I do not want any kids to end up like my brother. 

“Cannabis use heightened and aggravated his mental health issues, but had there been the correct education available maybe he would have thought twice about using it.

“I want the next generation to be fully informed and feel safe here, as sometimes people can be too scared to speak to their parents or the police.

“It will be better for youngsters to come to a safe place in the town centre, rather than hang around in parks where they are vulnerable and more likely to be approached for county lines dealings.”

The two-storey building will also operate as a café and classes on self defence, live music and e-sports teams are also planned.

Steve added: “At the moment there are no facilities for people like this in the country.

“It is important people are aware of all the dangers around the consumption of cannabis, including potential long-term mental health issues and social concerns.” 

Weston’s MP John Penrose has given his backing to the project.

He said: “I would support anything which helps steer young people away from a life of addiction and improve their chances to live a normal, healthy lifestyle.”

Apprenticeships and Brexit

Catherine McKinnell (Newcastle upon Tyne North)

Despite years of repeated warm words and commitments, it’s clear the Government has failed to resolve the skills crisis facing UK plc, with studies suggesting as many as nine out of ten firms across the country struggle to recruit the skilled workforce they need. Even with the highest level of unemployment and lowest level of … Continue reading Apprenticeships and Brexit

Santander Closure Petition

Brendan O'Hara (Argyll and Bute)

Nearly 400 people in Helensburgh signed a newly launched Parliamentary petition in its first two hours, with local SNP activists taking to the streets on Saturday morning with local MP Brendan O’Hara. Immediatelyfollowing news of the of the closure of the branch, the second bank to close in the town in the past four years, … Continue reading Santander Closure Petition

Steve appears on the Sunday Politics Show

Steve Pound (Ealing North)

Jonathan Djanogly has welcomed today’s announcement of the proposed ‘Orange route’ for the new A428.  read more »

MP backs permanent flood scheme for Severn Stoke

Harriett Baldwin (West Worcestershire)

West Worcestershire MP Harriett Baldwin has offered her continued support for a permanent flood protections scheme for Severn Stoke. read more »

Year 10 students at Haven High Academy in Boston were treated to a unique form of political engagement last Friday [15th February], taking part in a ‘digital surgery’ with their MP Matt Warman.

The video conference brought Matt directly into their classroom, where they discussed topics as wide ranging as Brexit, potential ward closures at Pilgrim Hospital, mental health, and whether the school day should start at 10am.

Digital surgeries are 45 minute to one hour long video conferences between politicians and their student constituents, and are one of the key components of social enterprise The Politics Project’s Digital Surgeries programme. The Digital Surgeries programme is a political literacy initiative run in schools across the UK that equips students with knowledge, skills and confidence to engage in politics and in their local communities. The programme is designed to build trust between young people and politicians through letting them cut through the noise and have direct conversations about issues that matter.

Politicians taking part in the programme include Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham, Nicky Morgan MP, and Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader Jo Swinson, as well as over 70 politicians from every UK-wide political party. Digital Surgeries allow politicians to connect with their student constituents wherever they are, meaning that MPs, councilors, mayors and MEPs are able to connect with the young people they represent even if sometimes hundreds of miles away from them when working in Westminster or Brussels.

Students at Haven High Academy had taken part in several hours of preparatory workshops in advance of the digital surgery with Matt Warman, which focused on improving their understanding of formal politics, ability to construct powerful questions, and their public speaking skills.

Reflecting on the digital surgery, Year 10 student Anam Rahman said, “I learnt that Matt Warman is a positive person and he respects our opinions”, adding that he felt young people engaging with politics was essential because “you need to know about politics because we are the future.”

Leony Ainsworth, also in Year 10, said, “We all believe that some things need changing and he [Matt Warman MP] is here to help us do it”, adding “don’t expect anything to change unless you get involved in politics yourself.”

Matthew Van Lier, Head Teacher at Haven High Academy, commented, “We would like to send a massive thank you to Matt Warman MP for his time today during the digital surgery. We had the opportunity to challenge him on a whole variety of current issues and understand the role of a Member of Parliament. This process of developing our knowledge of the wider world and then debating with our MP has been really interesting and we appreciate his time and contribution to our Academy”

Matt Warman MP said, “I am delighted that The Politics Project and their technology has allowed me to keep my appointment with Haven High Academy for a Digital Surgery, even though I had to be in Northern Ireland at short notice on Friday. The Digital Surgery provided a brilliant opportunity to engage with young people in my constituency about their hopes and ambitions, what concerns or worries them, and what changes they would like to see in the community. I’m very happy to have been involved with The Politics Project’s goal of building understanding and relationships between young people and their representatives.”

Director of The Politics Project, Harriet Andrews, added, “Massive thanks to Haven High Academy and Matt Warman MP for being prepared to engage in a new way through this programme. The students were really well prepared by their teachers and had fantastic questions that kept Matt Warman MP on his toes. We want to make sure that during their time at school every young person can have the chance to have a meaningful conversation with a politician and build positive relationships. We need to start the process of rebuilding trust in our politics.”

Haven High Academy students taking part in the digital surgery

Haven High Academy students taking part in the digital surgery

Digital surgery 2









  • The Politics Project is a social enterprise that specialises in youth democratic education. They deliver workshops to young people and train educators using a variety of dynamic techniques, resources and events to increase the capacity of schools to deliver outstanding political education.
  • Since being established in January 2015, the organisation has transitioned from being a regional Greater Manchester organisation to operating at a national level. The flagship Digital Surgeries programme uses technology to connect young people and politicians, enabling them to have meaningful conversations issues that matter to them.
  • Digital Surgeries lead to real changes in local communities, and have resulted in students receiving support for their families after directly raising issues with politicians, successfully lobbying politicians to support action on mental health, and making positive changes on behalf of their school through bringing concerns about local sports facilities to the attention of local decision makers.

Policy Issues raised by constituents in December 2018

Chi Onwurah (Newcastle upon Tyne Central)

UK Government proposes ‘rural roaming’ for mobile operators

John Lamont (Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk)

The UK Government has proposed plans to require mobile operators to implement roaming in rural parts of the UK. In a consultation on its new Strategic Priorities for Telecommunications, the UK Government calls on Ofcom to review the possibility of allowing consumers to access other operators when they do not get coverage from their own operator.

Ministerial Visit to Camden

Kit Malthouse (North West Hampshire)

Affordable housing for rent or that paves the path to ownership, is a key tool to creating a more inclusive society. By supporting schemes like the Bourne Estate in Camden we are sending a key message – if we can deliver affordable housing in the sky-high London market, we can deliver it anywhere.

Holding my first digital surgery

Ben Bradley (Mansfield)

Last Friday, I had a really interesting chat with Manor Academy students and I didn't even have to leave my office!
The Student Senate took part in a Digital Surgery, which is a great initiative by The Politics Project. It was great to have a chat with the students and answer questions about the issues that really matter to them.
Thanks to the Manor Academy for the invitation!

Out and about with our local Police

Wendy Morton (Aldridge-Brownhills)

I was pleased to spend an afternoon out and about in the community with our fantastic local Police Officers. It was a great opportunity for me to see first-hand how they are tackling crime both in a proactive and reactive way.

It also gave me an informative insight in to the various jobs our hardworking local policing team undertake on the front line day and night, to keep us safe locally.

Daeth gwahoddiad diddorol drwy flwch llythyrau Guto fore heddiw. Gwahoddiad i ymuno â Chlymblaid Masnach Deg Conwy yn eu digwyddiad blynyddol “Pythefnos Masnach Deg” ar Ddydd Mawrth Ynyd. 


Rydym yn aml yn gweld sticeri neu bosteri Masnach Deg, ond beth mae Masnach Deg yn ei olygu mewn gwirionedd? Mae gwefan Sefydliad Masnach Deg yn ffynhonnell dda o wybodaeth – www.fairtrade.org.uk.


Anne Marie's Weekly Column

Anne Marie Morris (Newton Abbot)

Westminster Week

Last week, I was pleased to visit International Woodworking Machinery Ltd., an innovative business based on the Brunel drive industrial estate to meet its founders and staff. IWM sells machines like this one, which turns off products from joinery and farming into environmentally friendly pellets and brickettes for wood burning stoves and boilers.

With the increased focus on air quality moving us away from wet wood, efficient fuel like this is particularly important. And these machines enable businesses, farmers and the public to re-use waste that would otherwise have done to landfill. I wish them well.

The introduction of a dry dock in Portsmouth for the nation’s new carriers could create and protect hundreds of jobs in my constituency and be worth £1 billion to the local economy. I am keen to see the facility based in Portsmouth, which is home to the Royal Navy, so will the Secretary of State […]

The post Topical Questions | Oral Answers to Questions – Defence | Commons debates appeared first on Stephen Morgan.

Let me know your views in 90 seconds

Stephen McPartland (Stevenage)

Let me know your views, in 90 seconds, here: http://www.stephen-mcpartland.com/90-second-survey

Sign up to my newsletter and click here if you would like to help me make a difference

Friday 15th February

Chris Leslie (Nottingham East)

Who should we hold responsible for the current Brexit debacle?

It’s not a secret that I believe Brexit presents serious risks to the jobs and livelihoods of people across Nottingham and the rest of the country. I hold this Prime Minister culpable for a catastrophic approach to negotiations – agreeing to defer the most important part regarding our ‘future relationship’ with the EU until after we leave; a recipe for a bad deal. If we want closure on this whole saga, we need to let the public have the opportunity to think again and stay in the EU if they wish. Otherwise we will be spending the next five years arguing over what sort of deal we want with Europe.

On Thursday the Commons debated this issue again – in which I spoke about the consequences for trade, public services, jobs and of time-limiting the Good Friday Agreement and open borders between Northern Ireland and the Republic. If you have time, you can watch my full speech at the link here.

I voted for the SNP amendment to extend the Article 50 exit date for three months, as did 40 other Labour MPs, but the Labour frontbench – frustratingly – decided to officially abstain. The Government motion was then defeated because 60 ERG Tory right-wing MPs wanted to send a message to Theresa May. But we are no nearer sorting this mess out.

Ideally, we should have had action this week to snap out of the delusion that the Prime Minister can get the Irish Government to stand back on the Good Friday Agreement. I am worried we simply don’t have adequate time left to legislate to instruct the PM to request an extension of Article 50. But because the Labour numbers against this outrageous situation are too weak, our fate now rests in the hopes of getting Tory Government Ministers to resign and stop us crashing out. This illustrates perfectly the problem with Labour’s lack of leadership against a Brexit disaster. There should be no equivocation. But the leadership have turned a blind-eye to frontbench shadow Ministers abstaining and allowing the Government to win the day. That is not what the Labour Party should be about – and I find it heart-breaking we are in this situation.

I have received much criticism for raising the alarm about Labour’s fence-sitting stance on Brexit. But at this eleventh-hour I feel a duty to put what I believe are the country’s interests and Nottingham’s interests ahead of party political calculations. It’s just too important – and I hope that very soon Labour will back the conference policy for a People’s Vote before it is too late.

Action to tackle fuel poverty

Luciana Berger (Liverpool, Wavertree)

Fuel Poverty Awareness Day today is an urgent reminder that too many people struggle to keep themselves warm without falling in to debt.

Fuel poverty affects over 3.5 million people across the country, almost 400,000 in the North West. Numbers are increasing.

Fuel poverty is caused by low incomes, high energy prices and energy inefficient housing. Each demands government action to get to the root causes.

However, National Energy Action has produced a useful Warm and Safe Homes Action guide, with tips on reducing energy costs, paying bills and seeking help when it is needed, that make a real difference to individuals.

It’s ‘The Nation’s Biggest Housewarming’ day today aims to raise awareness of the issues and encourage people and government to act.

When people can’t keep warm at home, it can have a serious impact on physical and mental health. Cold homes increase the risk of cardiovascular and respiratory problems. Low temperatures also reduce resistance to infection. Cold homes have also been linked to poor mental health such as anxiety and stress.

With news of energy providers due to impose further price increases, we need action now.

Newbury’s MP Richard Benyon met around 30 young people who were taking part in a national day of action on Climate Change. Following a good natured discussion Richard said, “I enjoyed meeting the 30 or so young people who share my passion for tackling climate change. I was able to give them information about what […]

Mossmorran: “Progress is being made”

Lesley Laird (Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath)

Key report findings on flaring at Fife Ethylene Plant are due out in April, Mossmorran Working Group has learned today (Friday).
The well-attended meeting, held in Kirkcaldy, was co-chaired by Lesley Laird MP and Prof. Wilson Sibbett, chairman of the Mossmorran and Braefoot Bay Independent Air Quality Review Group.
The group heard that the Best Available Technology (BAT) report, commissioned by HSE and SEPA, was due out in April.
David Green HSE Head of Operations said: “We’ve carried out a number of inspections investigating the root cause that led to flaring.
“We’ve raised a number of actions, all of which have been complied with.”
Three particular factors were identified: third party verification of work on site, a pressure spike and interconnectivity between pipes; the relationship between pipes and flaring mechanisms.
Mr Green stressed that HSE’s priority was to protect health and safety at the plant and flaring was an essential safety mechanism.
Lesley said: “It was pleasing that so many of the attendees acknowledged and recognised that progress had been made.
“I am particularly delighted that there is genuine and open dialogue now happening with the community and that this provides the foundation for constructive working relationships going forward.
“There are some areas still to complete but everyone is committed to doing so.”
Jacob McAllister, who recently replaced Sonia Bingham as plant manager of Exxon Mobil, pledged the company had “no bigger priority” than the protection of staff, communities and the environment and its ultimate goal was to “eliminate flaring”.
“It’s better for business, it’s better for the environment and its better for communities. We don’t want it to happen,” he said.
“We strive every day as a company for perfection. We have to strive for that.”
He did acknowledge that Exxon Mobil had “to do a better job of keeping the community informed” and had hired a new community liaison manager, Stuart Neal, as a commitment to that pledge.
The meeting also learned that SEPA, in conjunction with the National Physical Laboratory, began an air quality monitoring exercise in January.
The exercise, expected to run until April, was described by Prof. Wilson Sibbett as a “substantial piece of work”. The results are expected to be published later this year.
It was agreed that Mossmorran and Braefoot Bay Community and Safety Committee Group needed to be more transparent and include wider community membership.
It was also recognised that communication from groups had still to reach a wider audience
The Mossmorran Working Group is expected to meet again in June.

The post Mossmorran: “Progress is being made” appeared first on Lesley Laird.

In December Graham Stuart, MP for Beverley and Holderness, facilitated and Chaired an important event between the Hornsea Hospital League of Friends, Councillor Barbara Jefferson and representatives from the City Healthcare Partnership, which delivers clinics at the Hospital, East Riding of Yorkshire Clinical Commissioning Group, which commissions the services, and Humber Teaching NHS Foundation Trust, which owns the Hospital building. The purpose of bringing these local people and organisations together was to allow community representatives to air their concerns to the health bosses over the future of the Cottage Hospital and its services.

Graham said “I was pleased to Chair the constructive meeting back in December where it was agreed that Hornsea Cottage Hospital can provide even more clinics and services than it does currently. I welcome the news that the CCG had a follow-up meeting in the town earlier this month.”

At the 4 February meeting, the CCG shared information on the complex rules regarding property ownership in the NHS and explained that current ownership of Hornsea Hospital resides with Humber Teaching NHS Foundation Trust. The CCG has agreed to fund the cost of the whole building to allow the space to be used more flexibly.

Graham went on to comment “I am delighted that the CCG has listened and that services at the Hospital are being expanded. There will be wound care clinics every weekday, foot care clinics two days per week, musculoskeletal clinics two days per week in the bespoke physiotherapy space at the Hospital, and a regular continence, bowel and bladder clinic. The enhanced clinics are due to commence in March.

“One of the Hornsea Hospital League of Friends’ concerns has been over the Hospital space being underused, and the announcement that services are to be expanded is welcome. It’s really important to everyone in the town that the Hospital is used to capacity and remains, for generations to come, the local hub for receiving health care.

“Another point which was raised in the December meeting was how to make sure the community knows how many clinics the Hospital provides, and that they can request to be seen in Hornsea. So it is good news that the CCG is producing an updated brochure giving details of all the available clinics at the Hospital.”

Stuart Addy, standing in the May local elections as a candidate in the North Holderness Ward said “This is good news for the town. Hornsea Cottage Hospital is a much-loved health facility and we need to ensure it is fully used for as many clinics as possible. I’m pleased Graham got the ball rolling on this and enhanced clinics will be available from next month. It’s important local people can get great healthcare close to home. The need to retain and enhance the Hospital services is particularly strong given the plans to add nearly 790 new homes to Hornsea by 2028. If I’m elected in May, one of my priorities will be to work with Hornsea Cottage Hospital League of Friends, who do tremendous work on our behalf, to make sure the Hospital thrives into the future.”

Bristol South MP Karin Smyth says:

“Brexit remains a cause of much frustration, uncertainty and concern. 

“This is being felt here in Bristol South and throughout the UK. 

“I was in Dublin earlier this week, in my role as Shadow Minister for Northern Ireland alongside colleagues Keir Starmer and Tony Lloyd. We met with government and opposition, business leaders and trade unions who are, understandably, anxious about a ‘no deal’ Brexit.

“The UK government remains in chaos. The important vote on 14 February, once again showed that the Prime Minister does not have the full support of her own party, let alone Parliament. Parliament does not support the Government’s approach to Brexit negotiations – their deal, or no deal.

“With just weeks to go until we’re due to leave the EU, Parliament will continue to do its job in holding the government to account, clarifying and working through options on our future relationship with the EU.

“‘No deal’ Brexit is not an option.”

High Peak MP Ruth George is pressing for custody cells at Buxton to be retained.

Ruth said: “Local police have contacted me with their concerns about the possibility of the custody cells at Buxton Police Station being closed.

“Recent regulations to ensure the safety of often vulnerable offenders mean that it’s very expensive to fit out custody cells, which need two staff 24/7, even if no cells are in use.

“The huge cuts to Derbyshire police of over a quarter of their funding since 2010 mean that difficult decisions have to be made.  But the alternatives in High Peak of taking offenders to either Chesterfield or Manchester are just too far.

“For arrests in Glossop, Manchester’s police cells are already very busy as some of their custody suites have closed.

“I don’t want to see our officers who are in charge of difficult, sometimes dangerous or vulnerable offenders, having to wait for a cell or travel around Greater Manchester to find one on a busy Saturday night.

“It would mean two police officers having to transport each person arrested for at least an hour each way, taking them away from High Peak, and making arrests much more time consuming.

“Having custody cells in High Peak means our police can deal with most offenders quickly, using their local knowledge.  Many of the people arrested in High Peak are repeat offenders so officers get to know them and their networks and can help to keep crime low.

“In spite of cuts to their numbers, our excellent local police help us to keep High Peak as one of the safest places in the country and I want to support them with that.

“But we are seeing more criminals coming across our borders so I want to see more police in High Peak helping to make more arrests so our custody cells are more effective.

“That’s why I’ve asked our Police & Crime Commissioner to look at how we can keep police cells in High Peak and I’ve asked local people to join the campaign with a petition on my website.

“Please sign the petition to support our officers and help keep High Peak safe.”

You can sign the petition here.


The post Ruth George MP call to keep Buxton’s Police Cells appeared first on Ruth George MP for High Peak.

Concern over puppy smuggling rise

Susan Elan Jones (Clwyd South)

Meals and activities for children in Birkenhead, and across Wirral, in the school holidays
Charles Walker MP speaks in the House of Commons, Feb 2019, Private Members’ Bills

Following the recent blocking by one MP of several high profile Private Members’ Bills, Charles Walker seeks a meeting with the Leader of the House to look at reforming the process so the Friday sittings to debate such bills showcase Parliament at its best as a force for good and an opportunity for MPs to make a difference. [read more] about Charles Walker seeks reform of Private Members’ Bill process

Wolverhampton MPs join forces to protect free TV Licenses

Emma Reynolds (Wolverhampton North East)

Letter to Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright MP, signed by the three MPs

Emma joined Wolverhampton’s two other MPs, Pat McFadden and Eleanor Smith, to join forces and call on the Government to keep their promise to the over 75s of Wolverhampton, and ensure the BBC keeps free TV licenses for the over 75s.

The BBC is currently consulting over changes to free TV licenses, and in a letter to Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright, the three city MPs have called on him to intervene and keep the free benefit.

Speaking about the letter, Emma said:

“The three MPs represent over 17,000 households in Wolverhampton with a resident aged 75 or older, who could be affected by any changes to free TV licenses. Older people are disproportionately affected by loneliness and isolation, and any change will just make this worse.

“Free TV Licenses is a Government policy and as such the Government has always funded them. But the Government decided to hand over the responsibility for funding this to the BBC, and now they will not provide any compensation to the BBC for this. This was a Government choice and could reduce the money available for the programmes and services we all use every day.

“The Government made a promise to the over 75s that they would not lose their TV Licenses. They must step in and make sure they do not break it.”

After signing the letter, Wolverhampton South East MP Pat McFadden said:

“Free TV licences for older people were introduced by the Labour Government because we understood that when people retire and are earning less, a TV is often an essential. The policy saves pensioners £150 a year. The Tories placed the axe over this when they shunted responsibility for it to the BBC. They said they would maintain free TV licences until the end of this Parliament but now the BBC is threatening to cut back entitlement, either by raising the age limit or means testing the benefit.

“If they did either of these things, over 2,000 households in my constituency could lose out. This is a benefit and should never have been devolved to the BBC. Doing so is no excuse for the Tories to break their manifesto commitment or make people poorer. The Government should stand by their word and ensure old people can keep their free TV licenses”.

Eleanor Smith, Member of Parliament of Wolverhampton South West said:

“Television is very important to the over 75s as a source of information, entertainment and company. At the stage of life when these households are likely to have less income, the saving of £150 a year on a TV licence could be very important.

“This is a benefit and it is so typical of this Conservative Government to take things away, and then try and put the blame for this on another organisation. They are putting the BBC in a predicament, but it is the Government who are responsible.”

The post Wolverhampton MPs join forces to protect free TV Licenses appeared first on Emma Reynolds MP.

Basingstoke MP Maria Miller joined with children at St Mark’s Church of England Primary School when they participated in the first session of an Air Quality project, led by Jean MacGrory of Hampshire County Council’s My Journey Travel Planning Team. Cllr Stephen Reid, who is Hampshire County Council’s Executive Member for Education and Skills also attended.

A shared ambition to make Inverness a Gigabit City

Drew Hendry (Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey)

Campaign Update: Scotland’s next Gigabit City

When I was first elected as a Councillor in 2007, I must admit I found the speed of change frustrating. It quickly became clear, it wasn’t enough just to have a good idea – to get things done we needed a shared vision, with as many stakeholders as possible involved. A case in point was the ‘ring road’ folk had been talking about it since 1974. We knew if it was going to come to life, it needed a new approach, one stakeholders could get behind. This new approach allowed us to turn what until then was just an age-old idea into reality, and today the West Link feels almost as if it had always been part of our city roads network.

It was much the same approach that delivered the £315m City Region Deal. Again, it was a shared vision and a team effort that not delivered the deal, but meant we had the competitive advantage over other cities.

We embarked on a similar approach to make Inverness a Gigabit City, one I hope will soon bear fruit. Over the past year or so I have chaired a Gigabit City working group which comprises the Chamber of Commerce, The Highland Council, HIE, fibre network specialists and others. Together we have been working to deliver broadband speeds which will establish us a leader in connectivity, rather than playing catch up, as we have always done.

The Scottish Government has already committed to a whopping £600m investment to give every home and business in Scotland superfast broadband by 2021, even though broadband remains the responsibility of the UK Government. They know we cannot wait around and with two-thirds of this money earmarked for the North of Scotland, their commitment will make a huge difference to many Highland households.

Gigabit connectivity takes us to a whole new level. Instead of just getting by with internet speeds, our business community and public services will be ahead of the curve. With the compelling case put and a lot of work by all involved, I am confident it will not be long before the UK Government allow the use of its£4.2m of Local Full Fibre Network fund, to make gigabit connectivity a reality in Inverness, as well as in Fort William, Thurso and Wick.

Sometimes change can be fast. Very fast.

Background: https://www.holyrood.com/articles/news/mp-launches-campaign-make-inverness-scotland%E2%80%99s-next-%E2%80%98gigabit-city%E2%80%99

The post A shared ambition to make Inverness a Gigabit City appeared first on Drew Hendry MP.

In House of Commons Business Questions, Diana Johnson MP pointed out that five wasted years after the 'Northern Powerhouse' was launched Yorkshire Devolution was this week killed in Whitehall. 

Bill Introduces 10 Minute Rule Bill

Bill Wiggin (North Herefordshire)

I am introducing the following Ten Minute Rule Bill: Dog Meat (Consumption) (Offences) Bill A Bill to make it an offence to consume dog meat and to transport, possess or donate dog meat for the purpose of consumption; and for... Continue Reading →

Isles MP makes formal move to abandon Brexit

Angus MacNeil (Na h-Eileanan an Iar)

Isles MP Angus B MacNeil is asking MPs to support a move to abandon Brexit and avoid inflicting economic damage on all countries of the UK.

He has already secured the support of Father of the House, Kenneth Clarke MP, and several other cross party MPs.

With the choice of the Prime Minister’s damaging Brexit deal –  being presented to the House of Commons once again today (Thursday) – or an even more damaging No deal, Na h-Eileanan an Iar’s SNP MP has tabled an amendment to the Government’s EU Withdrawal motion calling for Article 50 to be revoked before March 29th.

Mr MacNeil said: “I am tabling an amendment to the EU Withdrawal motion to revoke Article 50, not to extend it and breathe further life into this economically damaging phase.

“Leaving the EU will negatively impact all of us and damages the economy of the islands.

“Membership of the Single Market and Customs Union is crucial for industry in the islands and the rest of Scotland.

“Free movement of people is also hugely beneficial to us as we really need more people to live and work here and to make a valuable contribution to our communities.”

The Treaty of Lisbon outlines the constitution of the EU. Any member state wishing to leave the EU must invoke Article 50 of the Treaty. The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled in December that the UK can unilaterally revoke its withdrawal notification made under Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union.

The Times has reported that Shamima Begum who fled the UK to join IS in 2015 was recently found in a camp in Syria.

For years, places like Southampton have been overlooked. When Government Ministers talk about regenerating post-industrial towns, they think about those in the North not those in the South. Southampton is like many other post-industrial towns and cities, the only difference being that it’s located in wealthy, leafy Hampshire. That, I believe, is the reason that [...]

The post Look south PM, it’s not just about helping Labour Leavers in the north appeared first on Royston Smith - At the heart of Southampton.

Debbie launches inquiry into the effects of the 2016 Welfare Reform & Work Act

The inquiry focuses on the impact of the Act on children and disabled people

As chair of the the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Health in All Policies, I and fellow MPs have launched an inquiry into the actual impacts of the Welfare Reform and Work Act (WR&WA) 2016. The inquiry is focusing on how children and disabled people have been affected since the WR&WA was introduced nearly 3 years ago. It follows on from an earlier assessment in 2015 which tried to predict the range of potential impacts the act would have when it was implemented.

The first stage of the inquiry is a ‘call for evidence’.

Although key organisations will be contacted, individuals who may have been affected by the act are also invited to send in their evidence.

We’re currently inviting submissions of evidence to the Inquiry. Our focus is on how disabled people and children across the UK may have been affected by the different measures in the act. The call for evidence is open to anyone who has experienced the impact of the act on the their own or their family’s lives and health or who works in disability or welfare rights or anti-poverty and inequality organisations.

We particularly want to understand the impacts the act has had on child and disabled people’s health from different parts of the UK, so we would also like to hear from organisations involved in public health, child health or other disability charities.

After analysing this evidence the APPG will then hold an oral evidence session to question some of those who submitted evidence. The questions we would like answering and the measures in the act we wish to explore are available below.

Examples of the measures we will be exploring are the reduction of the benefit cap to £23,000 in London and £20,000 the rest of the UK, the ‘freeze’ in the value of certain benefits for 4 years and limiting support from child tax credit or the child element of Universal Credit to two children.

The 2015 inquiry raised considerable concerns about the potential impacts of the Welfare Reform and Work Bill. It will be interesting to see how accurate our predictions were. Read the inquiry’s 2015 report here.

Submissions should respond to the following:

In the 3 years since the implementation of the Welfare Reform & Work Act (2016), what impact has it had on levels of the poverty, inequality and health experienced by children and disabled people in the UK?

We welcome submissions which supply evidence in response to the question, and in relation to:

1. The specific measures in the Act, including (but not exclusively):

  • The reduction of the benefit cap (to £23,000 in London, £20,000 the rest of the UK),
  • The ‘freeze’ in the value of certain benefits for 4 years
  • Limiting support (from child tax credit or the child element of Universal Credit) to 2 children
  • Removing the work-related activity support component in Employment and Support Allowance
  • Changes in conditionality for responsible carers under Universal Credit
  • Replacing current mortgage interest support to loans for mortgage interest payments
  • Reducing social rents by 1% pa over next 4 years

2. The impact of the Act directly and indirectly on other legislation, services or access to these services, and vice versa, e.g., earlier welfare reforms (Universal Credit, sanctions, Personal Independence Payments, Work Capability and other assessments), taxation, housing, education, courts and probation services, NHS

3. Regional variations in impacts

4. Short and longer term impacts

5. Measurement and reporting methods, e.g social mobility, unemployment

The APPG for Health in All Policies is interested in your experience, as well as other qualitative and quantitative evidence, from the grey literature as well as peer-reviewed publications.

Please provide: name; job title; the organisation you represent (if applicable); email address; contact telephone number.

Please limit your response to no more than six pages of A4.

Please respond by Monday 4 March 2019.

Send submissions to appg@publicmatters.org.uk.

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The post Debbie launches inquiry into the effects of the 2016 Welfare Reform & Work Act appeared first on Debbie Abrahams MP.

Liz invites Beaumont Leys pupil to Parliament

Liz Kendall (Leicester West)

On Wednesday 6th February, I was delighted to welcome Kaitlin and her teacher Niamh from Beaumont Leys School to Parliament.

I first met Kaitlin when I visited her school to hear about pupil’s experiences with social media as part of an inquiry by the Science and Technology Select Committee. You can read more about the report here.

I really enjoyed getting the opportunity to speak to Kaitlin more when she visited Parliament and wish her all the best for a successful future.

The post Liz invites Beaumont Leys pupil to Parliament appeared first on Liz Kendall.

Winter of Compassion

Liam Byrne (Birmingham, Hodge Hill)

When did a neighbour give you a helping hand?

The post Winter of Compassion appeared first on Liam Byrne MP.

It is integral to get our children reading from a young age. Not only are children receiving books from the Dolly’s Imagination Library initiative 28% more likely to start school ready to learn, but they are more likely to enjoy reading. The initiative seeks to close the attainment gap by intervening at an early stage.

The Imagination Library is a brilliant scheme which delivers a free book to children aged 0 to 5 years on a monthly basis. The scheme has reached a milestone with 5,000 children receiving books and more than 150,000 books have been delivered.

In 2018, the Imagination Library initiative was active in 7 wards across the city. Cllr David Mellen smashed his 2018 target of reading to 2,018 children as well as raising £4,456 – over £1,200 more than its original £3,018 target. The 2019 Big Reading Challenge has made similarly excellent progress with an aim of reading to at least 5,000 children between 28th January and 19th March 2019. As of 12th February 2019, £1,651 of a £5,000 target has been raised with 5 weeks to go. Now almost 5,000 children receive a book each month and the DPIL is delivered in 10 of the city’s 20 wards. If you would like more information about the campaign or would like to donate to this worthy cause, please follow this link: https://www.gofundme.com/bigreadingchallenge

Nottingham City Council has introduced other initiatives aiming to promote reading across the city. In November 2018, plans were put through to develop a new Central Library as apart of the Broadmarsh car park development that is equipped for the 21st century, with an ambition of being the best children’s library in the country. A contractor for the project was appointed earlier this month. We hope that the new library and the success of Cllr Mellen’s Big Reading Challenge will consolidate our early years success, with Nottingham placed in the top 10 cities in the country for improvement in learning to read and write through phonics. The Reading Challenge also complements our status as a UNESCO City of Literature, allowing us to transform lives through reading and the arts. There are lots of culture-based events run by the organisation which are taking place over the next few months, ranging from the UK Young Artists’ Takeover (8th-11th February) to talks and book launches. For more information, please follow this link: https://nottinghamcityofliterature.com/

The post Nottingham Children Should Read Early and Read Often appeared first on Nottingham Labour.

Evennett concerned and disappointed at rail landslip at Barnehurst

David Evennett (Bexleyheath and Crayford)

Rt Hon Sir David Evennett, MP for Bexleyheath and Crayford, has expressed his concern and disappointment at the landslip on the Bexleyheath rail line.

Tree planting in Five Roads

Nia Griffith (Llanelli)

Fantastic to join children from Ysgol Pum Heol last Friday to plant a tree by Five Roads Community Centre.

This push by the Women’s Institute and other local groups to get more trees planted is a great initiative, which will enhance our environment and help to slow down global warming. We need more action like this, not just talking.

Working with Five Roads Heritage Society and Llanelli Rural Council, the WI organised the planting of trees around the recreation field as well as a birch by the Community Centre to commemorate World War One, and an oak to replace the original tree planted for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. 

Open invitations for trips to Parliament are being sent to every household in Welwyn Hatfield.

They come from borough MP Grant Shapps who is staging his latest series of personal tours of the iconic buildings.

Evenings start with a talk and Q+A session from Grant in the little-known third Parliamentary debating chamber.

He then leads residents around Westminster Hall, the oldest part of the complex which dates back to 1097, Central Lobby, one of the voting lobbies and then into the House of Commons Chamber itself.

Along the way Grant recounts personal memories of his experience in Parliament in addition to its unique history.

He said: “It’s a great privilege to serve as Welwyn Hatfield’s Member of Parliament and it’s an honour to be able to show constituents around this extraordinary palace and to share some of the remarkable history that has taken place here over the centuries.

“I would urge anyone who has yet to do it, to please get in touch!”

Anyone interested in securing a place on a future tour please should get in touch with Grant at grant@shapps.com Coaches are arranged that arrive in Westminster at around 6.30pm before returning after the tour. There’s no charge for the tour of parliament.

The UK Government have finally admitted the link between the roll-out of Universal Credit and the significant rise in food bank use in recent years.
The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Amber Rudd, made the admission in the House of Commons on Monday after previous ministers and the UK Government refused to acknowledge any link between the two.
Dundee East MP, Stewart Hosie, welcomed the admission but claimed that it was “not enough” and that “more has to be done to end the suffering of families on this benefit.”
Full service Universal Credit was rolled out to Dundee in late 2017. Since then the demand for emergency food parcels has sky-rocketed and Dundee City Council have had to spend £2.5 million mitigating the effects of changes to benefits such as the bedroom tax and the switch to Universal Credit.
Commenting Stewart Hosie MP said:
“It’s good to see that the Government are finally taking some responsibility for the rise in food bank use over the past few years.”
“But of course, it isn’t enough to just recognise the failure of the policy, more has to be done to end the suffering of families on this benefit.”
“I have written to the UK Government several times in previous years encouraging them to halt and rethink this policy, but these requests have fallen on deaf ears. The Tories last year claimed that ‘austerity is over’. They ought to put their money where their mouth is and prove it.”
“I have lost count how many times constituents have come to me with issues relating to Universal Credit. The system isn’t working.”

Alec comments on Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty

Alec Shelbrooke (Elmet and Rothwell)

During an Urgent Question in the House of Commons and following international debate on the future of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INT), Alec – who is a UK Representative to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly – reiterated why it’s important for the UK to keep close relationships with our allies, particularly through NATO, following Russia’s disregard for international treaties.

WATCH Alec’s contribution here:

The post Alec comments on Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty appeared first on Alec Shelbrooke MP.

Talking to Students at Esher College

Dominic Raab (Esher and Walton)

On Friday, I went to Esher College to talk to a full theatre of students at Esher College, including over 100 politics students. I spoke to the pupils about why I went into politics, my optimistic vision of a post-Brexit Britain and ways to make the economy work for everyone, including raising the national insurance employees’ contribution threshold and cutting the basic tax rate of income tax.

I took questions from students on the economy, free trade, the environment, LGBT rights, Brexit and workers’ rights.

My thanks to Meir Shabat, Head of Government and Politics at Esher College for the kind invitation. It was great to have an opportunity to engage with the next generation of voters, and hear their views.

A Hard Border?

Bob Stewart (Beckenham)

From January 1981 – January 1983 I had the privilege of commanding some great soldiers in A Company, 1st Battalion the 22nd (Cheshire) Regiment and was based in Northern Ireland. I spent every fourth month throughout that period with my Company guarding the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland at a crossing point at Auchnacloy, South Tyrone (see photograph of Check Point and myself at Auchnacloy Base).

World Cancer Day 2019

Philippa Whitford (Central Ayrshire)

World Cancer Day 2019

I was delighted to support World Cancer Day (6th February) in Parliament by speaking in a debate to mark the event and joining a cross-party group of colleagues to illuminate the House of Commons pink and blue, the colours of Cancer Research UK.

Thanks to research, the survival rate has doubled in the UK in the last 40 years but with more than 990 people diagnosed with cancer every day World Cancer Day aims to bring people together to unite and raise vital funds to speed up advances which will help save more lives.

As a breast cancer surgeon for over 30 years, I have seen such great advances over the years in terms of detection and treatment of cancer. Breast cancer survival rates after five years have risen from 53% in the 1970s to approaching 90% today.

However, it is is no longer just about survival as we have also seen a significant reduction in the impact of cancer treatment on patients. In my early days, treatment was very destructive. Women lost their breasts through mastectomy and had very harsh radiotherapy, the side effects of which were awful. Now, we practice much less destructive surgery and CT-planned radiotherapy avoids damage to surrounding tissues, which reduces the side effects.

Cancer drugs are no longer just discovered by chance but, with a greater understanding of cell biology and genetics, are specifically designed to be better tolerated and, as in the case of immunotherapies, to work with the body’s own immune system.

Critical to successful cancer treatment, is early diagnosis which is why we have screening. In Scotland, Bowel Screening starts at 50 years of age rather than 60, as in England, which has allowed more cancers to be found and treated at the earliest stage. What many people don’t realise is that screening programmes for bowel and cervical cancers can actually prevent cancer from developing through the detection and treatment of abnormal cells or polyps. This preventative treatment has led to an 18% drop in the number of bowel cancers cases in men.

We are lucky in Scotland to have such comprehensive screening programmes and we should all take full advantage of them. Worryingly, however, we are seeing a gradual fall in uptake of many screening programmes, particularly those for breast and cervical cancer, so it is essential that we all take up the screening opportunities we are eligible for.

The post World Cancer Day 2019 appeared first on Dr Philippa Whitford MP.

Victims of domestic abuse, homelessness or substance abuse, will be supported to return to work by a new government fund, launched this week (7 Feb) by the Minister for Women and Equalities Penny Mordaunt.
Read the full details here:
Councillors will begin examining the Final Business Case (FBC) for taking trams to Newhaven in fine detail following the opening of a special data room in the City Chambers today [Friday 8 February].

Dan Jarvis MP - A Fair Deal for Miners

Dan Jarvis (Barnsley Central)

This Monday, 4th February, marks the 25th anniversary of the closure of Goldthorpe Main – the last pit in Barnsley. Although it would take a further 8 months to run down the supplies, February 1994 marked the end of an era.

Barnsley is a town built on coal. The pits are an inextricable part of our history – it is the coalminer and the glassblower stood together on our town’s coat of arms – and the winding wheels that remain in place, are a poignant reminder of our industrial heritage. Also testament to that heritage are the generations of men who spent their entire working lives underground, many of them paying the price of serious illness, ruined lungs and even their lives. It was the hard graft of Barnsley miners that powered our communities and industries – but in the quarter of a century since the last pit closed, miners and their families have received a raw deal from successive governments.

East Yorkshire MP Sir Greg Knight has welcomed the announcement from Home Secretary Sajid Javid MP that he plans to give police tough new powers to crack down on illegal traveller sites.  The news follows a campaign by Sir Greg and other MPs. 

Under the plans just announced, police officers will be given powers to intervene and remove travellers from land they should not be on.  The Government will also consider making the establishment of unauthorised camps a criminal offence rather than merely a civil matter.

Sir Greg said: “Whilst most travellers are law-abiding citizens there have been too many instances of damage to public and private property and, as things stand, there is a widespread perception that the law does not apply to travellers.

“Sadly, in practice, this is all too often the case as until now the hands of the police have been tied.  As things stand anyone who has had their land occupied without their permission needs to seek civil redress in the courts which is both time consuming and costly.  This cannot be right, so I welcome the Government’s plan of action to restore public confidence in the law.”

Click below to hear Greg comment.

Whatever anyone’s views on Brexit, no one wants to see traffic chaos in Kent after March 29th. Therefore one of the key meetings I have attended recently was the briefing from Highways England and the Department of Transport about the contingency arrangements if there are problems with cross-channel traffic.

Job Vacancy: Senior Communications Officer

Patrick Grady (Glasgow North)

I'm recruiting for a Senior Communications Officer to work in my Glasgow office and assist my team in dealing with constituent enquiries. Key responsibilities include researching and drafting responses to political campaigns, producing press releases, managing my social media and updating constituents on my work in Parliament.

Click to read the job description and person specification.

Please send your CV with a covering letter (no more 3 pages in total) matching your skills and experience to the job description and person specification to apply@patrickgrady.scot.

The closing date for applications is 5pm on Friday 01 March 2019. Applications received after this will not be considered.

Interviews will be held in Glasgow and are expected to be held on Friday 08 March although this remains to be confirmed.

Investment in St Helens North

Conor McGinn (St Helens North)

I visited UK Power Reserve’s site in Newton Le Willows. Their £10m investment is a strong vote of confidence in St Helens borough as the best place in the North West for businesses to locate. The gas-fired facility will provide enough power for the equivalent of 20,000 homes. UK Power Reserve is one of the leading providers of low carbon electricity to the UK energy market. This site is generating […]
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