This July, I am launching a politics summer school for young people in my constituency.
I am consistently impressed by the young people who contact me and struck by their passion for the climate, social justice and education. This summer school is an offer to those who want to understand more about how politics works and how to influence it – an opportunity to learn, debate and ask questions.
The week-long programme is aimed at young people aged 16 and over who want to make a difference. There will be sessions from climate activists, MPs and journalists, taking a look at politics on the local and national level, as well as environmental campaigning and communication.
You don’t need to take politics at school or be a climate expert to get involved; the most important thing is enthusiasm! The workshops and activities will help you understand your influence and how to campaign for change.
If you are keen to find out more about the programme, fill out our online form here to express your interest and be the first to hear when applications open this spring.
A keen focus of mine throughout the Covid-19 pandemic has been the issue of education. Education is an area that I hold dear, I was formerly a university lecturer at the University of Swansea and was the Chair of the Education Select Committee for over nine years. I think it is so important that we do not lose sight of the educational needs of each and every child and young person.
Earlier this week, the Labour Party tabled Opposition Day motions to improve the level of support available to young people throughout the pandemic. Our fantastic frontbench team stood up for our children and young people, their access to the technology that they need to learn remotely and urged the Government to take steps to empower them, parents and young people. You can watch my statement on the motion *HERE*.
As more and more children have had to transition to online learning, I think it is vital that teachers and other educational staff are trained appropriately in the use of technology for teaching. Since the start of the pandemic, I have called upon the Open University, with their decades of expertise, to help train teachers across the country in remote teaching. Very usefully, a representative from the Open University contacted me and provided me with resources to pass on.
The Open University has made a wide range of open educational resources available for free on their “OpenLearn” platform (which can be found here). The resources cover a wide span of subject areas, such English, Maths, History and even Politics. The resources are varied and cover a range of different types of learning. Through articles, quizzes and interactive games. The Open University produces most of its content on the “OpenLearn” platform under a Creative Commons licence, which means that it can be shared and reused by educators across the world free of charge.
The content that the Open University provides is aimed at everyone involved in education. Teachers, parents and even pupils themselves. The content is grouped in a number of ways depending on who the content is aimed at. Teachers can find a number of free resources targeted at supporting them in taking teaching online. These can be found here. I would encourage every teacher, that has not already done so, to access this content and allow it to help them develop their remote learning curriculum. I thank the Open University for providing me with these resources to pass on and for all of their hard work, as well as the work of all teachers. throughout this difficult time.
I do hope that, by Easter, with an effective mass vaccination programme we can begin to live our lives and return to some normalcy. Until then however, let us renew our commitment to keeping each other safe, that we follow the rules and ultimately protect the NHS.
Last year, over 60% of journeys in the UK were made by car – accounting for 77% of the total distanced travelled.
Many of us depend on our cars to get to work, fulfil our caring responsibilities and make necessary trips. However, our reliance on petrol and diesel fuelled cars is unsustainable. We have set ourselves the target of net zero by 2050– and, if we are going to meet it, the way we get around has to change.
This matters because the climate emergency is escalating. Last year, I had the privilege of meeting Greta Thunberg and, as her powerful speeches make clear, we risk passing the point of no return in terms of global warming if we do not change course urgently.
In the UK, transport accounts for around a third of all carbon dioxide emissions, and road transport makes up most of this figure. With the government set to ban the sales of petrol and diesel cars by 2030 in a bid to reduce emissions, are electric vehicles the way forwards?
There are certainly positive signs. Last year, the number of public charging points overtook the number of petrol stations in the UK. A new electric car is registered every 9 minutes. Electric car owners benefit from grants and tax breaks, with some local councils also offering free parking.
This is all great news – but the fact remains that less than 1 in every 150 cars on UK roads is powered by electricity. If we are going to increase that number, we need more charging points, better and cheaper technology, and a shift in our attitudes.
Sustainable Huddersfield is holding an online event on the future of transport to ask a range of experts about these challenges and opportunities. Locally, a transport system that meets people’s needs and reduces environmental impact is key to becoming a greener, fairer and more prosperous town.Join us on Wednesday 27th January at 5pm to hear more about we need to do to make cars work for people and the planet.
I used to know the Last of the Summer Wine crew very well years ago and I can recall introducing them to former prime minister Harold Wilson when he opened the Huddersfield Hotel owned by the Marsden brothers.
Bill Owen, who played Compo in the long-running show, was a generous supporter of our party, and opened our former offices in Huddersfield town centre. He also kindly donated a hat for auction, along with a note of authenticity.
A family friend bought it for my daughter who was a big fan at the time. A recent attic reorganisation has seen the hat resurface and now I am happily putting it up for auction with all proceeds to support the Platform 1 charity in Hudddersfield.
Platform 1 are an incredibly valued charity specialising in mental health and have helped so many in our town. You can find out more about their work, and support them directly via: platform-1.co.uk/about-us
How to bid
If you’re interested in owning the hat and accompanying authenticating note from Bill, you may wish to participate in the silent auction. You can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org titled ‘Bid’, with an amount along with your name and address. Whichever person has made the highest bid by 12 noon on 30th January 2021 will win.
Remember silent auctions mean you don’t know how much other people have bid – so it’s wise to bid high, especially as all money will go to Platform 1
Alternatively, just fill out the below! Ensure your email is correct, as if we cannot contact you the bid won’t count
As a lifelong social enterpriser, I believe in the power of small businesses working for the social good.
This Saturday 5th December is small business Saturday, a day to celebrate the benefits that small businesses bring to our town in terms of social purpose, high quality products, employment, training and community identity.
As a Labour and Cooperative MP, I am proud of the contribution that Huddersfield’s 3,350 small businesses, mutual and coops make to the town. Along with local partners, I founded the Huddersfield Enterprise Foundation 15 years ago to provide mentoring, advice and financial support to start-ups and I am honoured to have seen many of them grow into flourishing enterprises.
Local businesses have adapted brilliantly in the past year, supporting the effort to tackle the virus, keeping local communities safe, and ensuring no child goes to bed hungry. Yet after eight months of difficult trading conditions, I know many are facing a serious cash crisis.
On the national stage, Labour is calling for an emergency support package tailored to small business needs. We are determined to stand up for shops, pubs and restaurants, manufacturers, hotels and hairdressers, beauty salons and suppliers, breweries and bakeries and many more small businesses of all kinds.
That is why, in conjunction with friends and partners from the Sustainable Huddersfield initiative, I am relaunching our start-up support service.
As we rebuild from the pandemic and shape a ‘new normal’, I believe we need new ways to support businesses and to tackle the key social, economic and environmental sustainability issues we face: the climate crisis, systematic inequality, food poverty, precarious work.
We are working towards a local start-up and business support hub called the Huddersfield Green Enterprise Foundation that will particularly target enterprises which want to prioritise sustainability in their development, mission and practices. Ethical business is a powerful tool for good and one that will be vital in revitalising our local economy.
I am proud of the innovations, skills and knowledge we have in our town and I am determined to play my part in supporting local businesses to excel, creating benefits for all of us.
What would it mean for Huddersfield to become a truly sustainable town? A thriving, healthy community where people of all ages lead fulfilled lives. A place where the natural environment is protected and tackling climate change is a priority. A town full of pioneers of responsible businesses and opportunities for young people.
Last year, I set up the Sustainable Huddersfield project to start a conversation with local residents, activists, students, businesspeople, frontline workers and policymakers. Together, we have discussed what a sustainable future for Huddersfield looks like and how we get there.
As a result of those conversations, we have adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a framework to help us imagine that more just, green and inclusive future. The goals break down all the aspects of sustainable growth into specific targets and concrete action points; they give us the tools we need to make local sustainability a reality.
We want to share these plans more widely and hear from more people. On Wednesday 2nd December at 5pm, we are holding a webinar called ‘Achieving a Sustainable Town’. We have invited a panel of sustainability experts to share their experiences with us, from researching the value of the SDGs locally, through city-wide projects to end youth violence, to working with businesses to reduce their environmental impact. There will also be a chance to hear more about the Huddersfield Sustainable Town project. I warmly invite you to register for the talk if you are interested in finding out more about our work or about local sustainability issues more generally.
As a Parliamentarian, I feel it is my duty to do all I can to help those who have been wrongly convicted or blatantly mistreated by the criminal justice system. Miscarriages of justice have a truly devasting consequence for those who are convicted. It is vital that the Government and the courts do everything they can to prevent them from occurring in the first place. When miscarriages do happen, there must be quick and effective mechanisms in place to correct them. Currently, those obligations are not being met.
These failings are made obvious to me by the consistent stream of emails I receive from those have been the victim of a miscarriage of justice and the cases I hear about through my involvement with the APPG on Miscarriages of Justice. One of these cases is that of Osime Brown.
Osime is a twenty-one-year-old man who is autistic, learning disabled and currently suffers from severe PTSD from his time in care and in prison. He is currently serving a five-year sentence for a crime that he did not commit as a teenager.
Throughout his life, Osime has been failed by local authorities and now he has been failed by the justice system. Osime was in the company of a group of boys who stole a mobile phone and sentenced under the now unlawful joint enterprise law. A friend of Osime’s testified that Osime was not involved in the crime, and it has since emerged that Osime had attempted to talk the group out of committing the crime. Nevertheless, Osime was convicted and sentenced harshly. He is in prison and is self-harming to the point that he has hundreds of scars on his body.
On the 9th September 2020, this vulnerable young man received a letter stating that he will be held on release on October 7th and will be taken to a holding facility to Jamaica. Osime left Jamaica when he was four years old and he has never returned. On 14th September 2020, Osime was put on suicide watch after he told prison officers that he intended to take his own life.
When Osime was told of the plans to deport him, he asked his mother which way he would have to walk to get home. There is no one to support him in Jamaica. As his mother said, “if they deport him, he’ll die”.
Osime needs to have his deportation order removed immediately and he needs to be released and returned to the care of his mother.
In my capacity as Chair of the APPG on Miscarriages of Justice, I will be making representations to the Secretary of State for Justice on the behalf of Osime and will call for Osime to get the justice and support he deserves. If you wish to sign the petition in Osime’s name, you can do so here.
Hopefully we are slowly coming through this terrible outbreak of a virus that has tragically cost so many lives and put our society, our country, and every country at a standstill. Many experts and pundits now predict that we will soon plunge into the worst economic depression for 100 years. This is as well as combatting the growing threat of climate change. For my part I am an optimist and I don’t believe that the people of our nation are willing to let this happen without a fight.
My experience in public life, particularly the world of education, skills and training of young people, suggests that younger people may well be forced to bear the brunt of the coming storm, with fewer opportunities and jobs on offer.
For some time now, I have been speaking up in Parliament and across Huddersfield for a ‘Green National Service’ which would be made available to young people across the country after they complete their formal education, be that at age 16, 18, or 21. I have been inspired by the approach of other countries; Germany offers young people a voluntary environmental year which involves working on an environmental project alongside seminars about green issues, whilst the U.S. has the peace corps.
In our country, I envision a year-long scheme which pairs young people with projects that range from cultivating rewilding sites to working with major corporations to improve their carbon footprint. There will be something for every interest, skill level and career aspiration, with every participant receiving a wage or stipend to cover their costs. Tailored training on key skills, competences and environmental sector knowledge will be provided, equipping young people for their future careers.
Why a specifically green national service? Because young people care passionately about the environment. Both the climate strikes in Huddersfield and meeting Greta Thunberg in Parliament have brought this home to me in a very vivid way. In constructing a scheme to improve our young people’s futures, it makes sense to address of one the biggest threats to that future: the climate crisis. Young people are determined to protect the environment and if we as politicians can provide them with an outlet to do that in a systematic way, the result could be revolutionary.
Of course, such a scheme would need funding. I think a windfall profit tax is the way to do this, targeting companies with a high turnover who – through no plotting or planning of their own – have done especially well during this crisis. When I first came into Parliament as a young MP, everyone was surprised by the amount that Margaret Thatcher’s windfall profit tax on banks made. This could be a simple method to address the unfairness in our taxation system and the diversion of resources away from young people in recent years, giving back to them what they are due.
The climate crisis requires industries to mobilise and modernise. From manufacturing, to energy and utilities, transportation to farming and conservation, sectors and professions across the UK are in dire need of climate change specialisms. A ‘Green National Service’ would bridge the gap between the opportunities that young people need and the needs of Britain’s businesses.
Covid-19 has totally altered so many elements of our society. Life after Covid cannot afford to be a return to the former ways of doing things – for the sake of our young people, our environment and our economy. Politicians must go beyond providing assurances for a better future after this outbreak and begin to develop and implement concrete proposal. I believe young people and defining their role in combatting the climate crisis should be at the top of the list of priorities.
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.
Since the outbreak of Covid-19, and the vast changes that it has made to each of our lives, it has been wonderful to see so many acts of selflessness, altruism and compassion across our communities – and Huddersfield has been no exception. From the sacrifice of our frontline NHS and social care staff, to the dedication of our charity workers and the bravery of those who are performing essential work, everyone across Huddersfield has really risen to the challenge.
Over the last several weeks, many local businesspeople and those within the community have told me that they would like to help and contribute to national efforts in the battle against Covid-19, but they were unsure how they could best communicate this to the Government.
All businesses owners who are able and would like to offer support at this time, please follow this linkand complete the online form which relays to the Government what you are able to contribute. You will need your company number to do so.
The list below is what support is needed from businesses:
medical testing equipment
medical equipment design
protective equipment for healthcare workers, such as masks, gowns and sanitiser
transport and logistics, for moving goods or people
warehouse or office space, for medical use or storage
expertise or support on IT, manufacturing, construction, project management, procurement or engineering
social care or childcare
Our National Health Service, our care sectors and other organisations which provide essential services are in need of various equipment, materials and services; business contributions are a key a part of the battle against Covid-19.
I know that many businesses want to offer material help and I hope that this provides the means to do so. If you have any further questions or if the online form does not enable you to contribute what you want, please do get in touch with me at email@example.com.