As Parliament breaks for Christmas, I would like to take this opportunity to update my constituents on what I have been working on over the last month. I would also like to take this opportunity to wish you all a very happy Christmas and New Year.
As some of you may have seen, I have announced that I will not be standing again at the next general election. It has been an utmost honour to have represented Huddersfield for the last 41 years in Parliament. In the meantime, I will continue to work as hard as ever to represent you in Parliament and campaign for the Labour Government that our country needs. You can watch my standing down statement here.
Like me, I am sure many of you are worried about the rise of the Omicron variant and the implications this will have on Christmas plans. I want to make sure that everyone in Huddersfield can enjoy Christmas with their families and friends this year. I also want to make sure we protect our NHS – which is already under severe strain from a Tory-induced staffing shortage and chronic underfunding. By acting now, we can try to prevent a worsening situation and the need for further restrictions.
This is why I voted for the Government’s Plan B measures, including the requirement for Covid passes demonstrating vaccination status or proof of a negative test for entry to large venues and mass gatherings. Watch my question to the Secretary of State for Health here. I also voted for other common-sense measures such as mask wearing in indoor spaces.
The best thing we can all do to protect ourselves and loved ones is to get a booster jabs. I was pleased to make a statement to my constituents outlining the importance of getting vaccinated and I urge anyone who hasn’t yet had their jab yet to come forward now.
One of my most important causes is the Sustainable Towns initiative. Two years ago, I set up the Sustainable Huddersfield initiative and I am now asking the Government to support similar initiatives across the country. I tabled an Early Day Motion which you can read here. I also had the opportunity to urge the Secretary of State to commit to 500 sustainable towns and communities across the country. Watch my question here.
I believe that by championing sustainability initiatives in towns and cities across the country, we can implement the COP26 Glasgow Pact at a grassroots level, that empowers people in their local communities. In Huddersfield we are working with the Kirklees Climate Commission to advise the Council on how they can become more sustainable. We are bringing together businesses, community leaders and members of the public to come up with a roadmap to make Huddersfield a more sustainable and environmentally friendly place.
Campaigning for better air quality is a longstanding passion of mine. This month I tabled an Early Day Motion calling for the Government to make provision for local authorities to take annual air quality audits to identify where and who is causing air pollution. If the Government committed to my idea, we would have body of evidence identifying air pollution hotspots ready and waiting to be used to direct policy. Good policy needs evidence, and this is what I am calling for. You can read my Early Day Motion here. I am also hoping to present a private Bill to Parliament on this issue in the new year. In addition, I will also be giving the first reading of my Ten-Minute Rule Bill on diesel particulate filters and MOT tests early next year.
Integrated Rail Plan
Last month the Government published its Integrated Rail Plan, scrapping the eastern leg of HS2 and downgrading plans for ‘Northern Powerhouse Rail’. Whilst I welcome the planned upgrade of the line that runs through Huddersfield, I was disappointed that the plan lacked the ambition needed to truly ‘level up’ the North, as promised by consecutive Tory Governments and breaking several manifesto promises. I asked the Secretary of State for Transport if he would go back and re-consider his proposals. Watch here.