It has been a pivotal week in the country’s recovery from the Coronavirus. On Saturday, we saw the opening of our pubs, eateries and other public spaces on the provision that people stick to social distancing guidelines. Whilst the Labour Party and I consider this a necessary step to open up our service economy once again, we must recognise that the virus is far from beaten and we must continue to play our party in minimising its spread. Test and Trace is fundamental to this.
As the national economy reopens more fully, I believe it is a good time to reflect on the past few months and on the challenges we as a country and as a planet face going forward into the future. Since the beginning of the outbreak, I and many others have argued that we cannot return to a ‘business as usual’ approach when it comes to our economy, our commitments to our fragile planet and to the protection of the most vulnerable across society. I will continue to advocate for this as we adjust to our new reality.
The House of Commons
In the past week, I have participated in many debates and statements in the House of Commons, as well as my work on my Select Committee;
- After several discussions with my constituents, in particular those involved in higher education across Huddersfield, I was fortunately given the opportunity to speak on the Summer Statement made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer this week. Whilst there were some welcome pledges in the Chancellor’s packages, I was struck that his commitment to building a green economy of the future was underwhelming and that there was not adequate mention of colleges and apprenticeships. I urged him to consider the views of my constituents who have relayed to me that apprenticeship providers, because of Covid-19, have been unable to offer schemes to our town’s young people. If the Government do not commit to properly outfitting and funding employers in this regard, we will be a country of prospective apprentices without the means to work and learn. The Chancellor and the Secretary of State for Education must take this seriously.
- I had the opportunity to speak on the Foreign Secretary’s statement on the ongoing Chinese encroachment on the freedoms of the people of Hong Kong – a long standing British ally and friend. I was once part of the UK’s delegation to Hong Kong and I understand the immense value to the people of Hong Kong, the ‘one country, two systems’ arrangement with China. This allows the region to retain autonomy and freedom from Chinese interference in political and judicial matters. With the signing of the new security law in the Chinese National People’s Congress however, this is a clear sign this is an arrangement which China no longer wishes to uphold. I conveyed to Dominic Raab my concerns of what will happen if China is not held accountable for its actions in Hong Kong and in undermining democracy across the world.
- It was a pleasure to, as part of my work on the House of Commons Select Committee for the Future Relationship with the European Union, speak with leaders from ‘the3million’ last week, who gave their account to the Committee of citizens’ rights within the transition period and beyond. We covered a wide variety of issues and I found it extremely useful to hear the views of those who speak with Europeans here in Britain regarding their concerns for the future, their rights and their respective statuses. I will continue to hold the Government to account on the crucial matter of our future relationship with the European Union. Our economy and communities have been profoundly impacted by the Covid-19 outbreak; our departure from the EU must not further endanger livelihoods and our economic resilience.
- I urged the minister at Transport questions to ‘ratchet up the urgency’ when it comes to making our transport nationally more sustainable. Transport is one of the central components for a greener future and one of the mains fields on which the battle against climate change will be waged. I also asked her if she will support my new campaign, the Westminster Commission on Road Air Quality. The campaign engages stakeholders across a number of relevant sectors with the ultimate aim of urging the Government to take necessary and urgent action to mitigate the amount of toxic air we breathe in our urban areas. I also tabled written parliamentary questions on the issue.
I asked the Secretary of State: what steps his Department is taking to ensure that drivers are protected from poor air quality by adequate vehicle filtration systems.
The response was: The Government is determined to improve air quality and the Department’s officials are engaging with international expert groups, who are developing measurement procedures for vehicle interior air quality. There are currently no legislative requirements for vehicle cabin air filtration systems however some manufacturers install higher efficiency air filtration systems.
This is an underwhelming and disappointing response given the extent that poor air quality adversely impacts the health of drivers and pedestrians across our towns and cities. I will continue to hold the Government’s feet to the fire on this crucial matter which continues to hamper our health and our environment.
Here in Huddersfield
Ahead of the Financial Statement, I have been speaking with local employers and further education providers across Huddersfield to learn what their needs are from the Government and from the Chancellor of the Exchequer. As a result, I have written to Gavin Williamson, the Secretary of State for Education to make clear that clear financial assistance is needed for employers to incentivise them to offer apprentices. 50% of providers no longer find themselves able to offer schemes to our region’s young people. This must be addressed and corrected if we are going to offer our young people hope for their careers.
Also in the constituency this week, it was my pleasure to mark ‘The Time Is Now’ climate action event with a meaningful meeting with many constituents who shared with me their passionate views on climate change and the challenges we face as a planet for the future. Involvement across all sectors of society and engagement across generations will be how our town, our communities and our country will lead in the fight against climate change.
In recent weeks, I have been responding to high numbers of constituents who have conveyed their concerns regarding the Coronavirus pandemic and other issues to me and asked that I make representations on their behalf to the Government. These have spanned issues such as the reopening of businesses, financial relief to the hardest hit sectors, the questions of schools and education as well as many other non-Covid related topics such as British food standards after our departure from the EU, the war in Yemen and many others. I will continue to raise with the Government the views and concerns of my constituents.