I’ve had a very varied week in Westminster, there were so many different topics to speak or vote on.
Monday got off to a fabulous start with a group of visitors from Stretford High School. Later, I attended a discussion organised by Labour Campaign for the Single Market - you can read my report of the event here.
Tuesday saw me meeting visiting MPs from Norway, very interesting in the light of the disussion about the ‘Norway model’ for a possible future trading relationship between the UK and the EU, which we’d had at the Single Market event the previous night. I was also very privileged to attend a packed out meeting to support the campaign for a national Sikh war memorial, to honour the brave Sikhs who fought in two world wars.
Wednesday began with a debate on personal independence payments (PIP), with so many MPs wanting to speak about the flawed and cruel assessment process that we were warned to take less than two minutes each. That was followed by a debate about how mentally ill people are dealt with if they’re arrested. Later, I attended both a debate and a reception on services for people with autism (and highlighted the special support offered at the Trafford Centre). I was one of the Labour members appointed to a committee to agree new legislation on access to information about human tissue and embryos, so I also had to get along to that, leaving a meeting of the European Scrutiny Committee early so I could be there to vote.
We wound up Wednesday with a series of close votes on the refurbishment plans for parliament. I don’t know if the Stretford students were aware of it, but the building is in a terrible state. Fire risk is high, the piping and cabling is inadequate and difficult to access for repairs, the stonework is crumbling, and the roofs leak. You’d have thought any sensible person would realise we need to get out of the building so that major works can be carried out, to protect the place for future generations of MPs, visitors and staff. But, aside from worries about the cost (in fact, a wholesale decant while the work is done is the most cost effective option), MPs are a sentimental bunch, and some couldn’t bear the thought of being forced to move out for a few years. My view is we have no choice, and I was pleased we narrowly won the vote to do so. Not that we’re moving out any time soon - specific legislation is needed, so it is still some years away.
More variety followed on Thursday, as I asked questions in the chamber about immigration from the EU, public services carried out by private firm Capita (local GP practices in particular have been complaining about problems with medical records going missing, and doctors not getting the authorisations needed to prescribe), and what will replace EU regulations on hazardous chemicals after Brexit. Finally, I presented a petition on behalf of consituents concerned about the plight of the Rohingya Muslims suffering persecution in Myanmar. 356 people had signed the petition, from churches, mosques, the Gurdwara, and other faith and community groups in Stretford and Urmston, to demand international action to protect these desperate people. I was very proud to present the petition on their behalf in parliament.
Quite a lot of variety while I was in the constituency too this past week, with visits to Lostock College, Stretford Jobcentre, Purple Futures (the community rehabilitation company running probation services in my constituency), and meetings with a new local group, TASK, which is offering events for families with children with autism, and learning disability charity United Response. And I thoroughly enjoyed a visit to the Royal Exchange theatre with my staff to see ‘Guys and Dolls’ last Friday. It was a wonderful production, and we had a great night.