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A week of important debates on the EU Withdrawal Bill and Universal Credit

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It's been a long week of late nights in Westminster, and I'm very glad to be writing this on the train back home. 

The late nights are because of debates on the EU Withdrawal Bill. This is the most important constitutional issue of my political lifetime, so even though it meant being in parliament after 11.30pm on Tuesday, I don't grudge the time spent working to get it right.

In fact, although 8 days have been allocated for debates on this stage of the Bill in the Commons, that's not nearly enough when we have so many complex issues to discuss. On Wednesday, I proposed some important amendments regarding children's best interests after Brexit. But there was far too little time to debate them properly, something I pointed out, somewhat crossly, in my speech.

Thursday also saw me speaking in an oversubscribed debate with too little time for a full discussion of the issues, this time on Universal Credit, which is now being fully rolled out in my constituency. I've already heard from constituents about delays and mistakes in getting this benefit, and Trafford Housing Trust told me that the problems mean that 80% of their UC customers have rent arrears.  But Ministers don't seem to get the urgency of the situation. You can read the debate here or watch it here.

Away from the chamber, I've attended some very useful briefings, including one attended by Old Trafford-based organisation TLC, which works to tackle domestic violence. Air Products, based in Carrington, invited me to the Big Bang exhibition, showcasing UK engineering to MPs. Trafford Park- based food processors Cranswick hosted a dinner in parliament to talk about their business, and their plans for growth.  I met a number of refugee organisations, some of whom had also been at a conference I attended in Manchester last weekend, and heard some very distressing stories from asylum seekers who've been detained in Immigration Detention Centres, though they've done nothing wrong. I am really ashamed of the way we treat people who flee violence and persecution to seek safety in this country. I hope I can continue to raise the issue with Ministers. 

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If this week has been a heavy one in parliament, last week was much more relaxing, as I was able to spend extra days back home. That gave me time to visit some great local organisations: Davyhulme Cubs, Sri Guru Gobind Singh Gurdwara, the fabulous music therapy projects run by charity Nordoff Robbins, the Somali Ogaden centre in Old Trafford, the WASPI women, and Seymour Park school. Thanks also to Moss Park Infants and St Matthews Primary schools, who recently visited me in parliament, to Wellacre who joined me in an online discussion organised by the Politics Project, and to Flixton Girls, who are hosting a voter registration drive among their senior students. I'm making an extra special effort to visit or meet schools and youth groups to mark Parliament Week this week, to talk about democracy and voting to my young constituents. And where I can't do that in person, I've been able to do so by video, both in the Wellacre digital surgery and answering questions for 1st Partington Guides.

As always, it was an honour to attend the Remembrance Ceremony on Sunday, and this year I was glad to join friends and neighbours at Davyhulme Circle, and then at the John Alker club, where it was great to spend time with service men and women, veterans and volunteers. I also attended a short but lovely ceremony at the Trafford Centre last Saturday, at exactly the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month, the precise anniversary of when the armistice began.

This is always a very special and moving day in Stretford and Urmston, and I am always very proud to attend the commemoration events. 

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