As Parliament has returned from Summer recess this month, I thought it would be a good time to provide an update to my constituents on my work over this past month in the House of Commons Chamber.
At Prime Minister’s Questions, with Dominic Raab deputising for the Prime Minister, I raised the fact that Levelling Up needs to be more than just a slogan or a rebadged Government department. The Government must demonstrate how it will resolve regional inequalities rather just roll out soundbites.
The Government needs to fight to keep Channel 4 in the public sector and keep the headquarters in Leeds; this is essential in the growth of the technology economy in our region. For too long, levelling up has just been a slogan for the Government to throw out, they must back up their warm words with firm action that truly solves the regional inequalities across Britain.
HGV Driver Shortage
In an Urgent Question relating to the HGV driver shortage, I urged the Secretary of State for Transport to make the health and welfare of the drivers a priority in any solutions that the Government undertakes to tackle the driver shortage. Recent research conducted by Loughborough University, commissioned by the NHS, found that the average life expectancy of a driver is 14 years shorter than the general population.
This is because the drivers drive on the heavily polluted roads across our country, and recent research has shown that this pollution gets into the cabs, causing a major health problem. Even at £50,000-£60,000 per year, people are reluctant to enter the profession. We need to keep these people who drive for us safe and do something about pollution on the roads in our country.
This month, the Prime Minister made a statement on the Government’s future plans for health and social care. The NHS is held dear by most across Huddersfield and Britain and the Government’s record on health is appalling. Waiting lists had spiralled up to two million people before the pandemic. Targets on cancer, on accident & emergency and on mental health were all missed. In the last ten years, £8 billion has been cut from social care. As Keir Starmer said, the blunt and uncomfortable truth is that under the Prime Minister’s plans the quality of care will not improve.
I directly challenged the Prime Minister that alongside reform of our NHS, his Government needed to commit new money to the health service and I reminded him that it cannot be right that many people, in the most deprived communities in our country, cannot get access to the GP or a dentist.
Green Training and Skills
Throughout the pandemic, I have been consistent in my view that the Chancellor Rishi Sunak should urgently introduce a Windfall Profit Tax on those who have down very well out of the pandemic and use that money to fund green apprenticeships, green training and green skills. Young people care passionately about the environment. We have had climate strikes in Huddersfield, led by young people. The climate crisis requires industries to mobilise and modernise and the Government should provide funding to support the growth of green jobs and skills that will be vital for the next generation.
Young Women and Girls Education
I have also challenged the Government on their record on getting young women and girls more interested in maths and science. When I was Chair of the Education Select Committee until 2010, one of the things that became abundantly clear was the need to place more emphasis on stimulating young people at the earliest age, pre-school and infant school. That is the time to have imagination and to gets interested in maths and science. I asked the Government to commit to making special efforts to get children interested at that early age.
Westminster Hall Debate
I also participated in a Westminster Hall Debate on the state of school buildings across the country, led by my colleague, Andrew Gwynne. Indeed, where schools’ campuses are not fit for purpose, it is the education and wellbeing of children and young people which suffer the most. In the debate, I urged the minister to consider which developers the Government awards contracts to in the construction of our schools and learning campuses nationwide. Schools and the education of our young people should feel the effects of poor management and decision-making at national level.