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Holding the government to account on the Children and Social Work Bill


It's been my first week back in Westminster after the Christmas break. But not my first week back at work! – my office reopened straight after new year, and there's been lots to do in the constituency, including very useful meetings with the new Trafford police commander, and with Carers Trust about supporting carers who look after family members with mental illness.

I was delighted with last Friday's summit on improving air quality in Stretford and Urmston, which I held with children from St Monica's, Gorse Hill, Davyhulme, and Victoria Park Infants and Junior schools. Special thanks to Victoria Park Juniors for hosting us, and to Pete from Friends of the Earth Manchester for his input. We got loads of great ideas from the children, which I'll be raising with government ministers and with the Manchester Mayoral candidates. They also drew me some fabulous pictures!


Huge congratulations to Michelle, Alan, Paul, and local residents who turned out in their hundreds to support last Saturday's demonstration to Save Flixton Greenbelt. Of course we need more affordable homes in Trafford, but Flixton is the wrong place to build them. I've sent in a formal submission objecting to the plans (read it at http://www.kategreen.org/images/kategreenflixtonsubmission.pdf), and just before Christmas, Labour councillors proposed a motion to oppose them. Sadly, they were outvoted by Tory councillors, including, shamefully, the Flixton Tory councillors. Your job's to speak up for your community, Councillors!

There's been a lot going on in Westminster too. I spent all of Monday afternoon in the chamber, asking questions about low paid work, mental health, and the disgraceful situation in family courts that means that victims of domestic abuse can be cross examined by their abusers. That isn't allowed in criminal cases, and we were pleased to hear the minister say that he'd be legislating to stop it in family proceedings.

Much of Tuesday and Thursday was spent in committee, going line by line through the government's Children and Social Work bill. My Labour colleagues and I had proposed amendments to clauses in the bill covering everything from deregulating safeguarding rules that apply to local authority children's services, to placing English children in secure accommodation in Scotland, to introducing compulsory sex and relationships education in all schools. Unfortunately, we failed to get the government to back down on some of the most worrying clauses in the bill. But we'll be trying again next month, when it returns for further debate in the main chamber of the House of Commons.

I was very pleased to join fellow MPs from the all-party group for British Sikhs at a meeting with the Foreign Office Minister on Wednesday. I'm proud to represent many Sikh families in Stretford and Urmston, and this was a good opportunity to raise their concerns about a number of issues. I'm pleased to say the Minister was very positive in response to our suggestion for a war memorial in central London, commemorating the Sikh contribution in the two world wars. He also listened carefully to our requests for a revision to the census classifications specifically to recognise the Sikh identity, and to suggestions for improving the visa process for visiting priests.

Finally, earlier this week, I joined dozens of MPs and campaigners at the launch of charity Open Doors' annual report on religious persecution around the world. The stories they report are truly horrifying, but the courage of those who continue to practice their faith, even when threatened with attack, death or torture, is inspiring. I am full of admiration for them.


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