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MPs do a very strange job – but our standards should be of the very highest

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There's quite a tense mood in parliament this week. Allegations of sexual harassment and bullying are dominating conversations. 

I think there's been a sea change in the way this behaviour is being perceived, and pressure for action is unstoppable. I've never believed working in parliament is somehow 'different' and shouldn't be judged by proper standards, just the same as other workplaces. In fact, I believe our standards should be of the very highest, and its way past time we had the culture and processes in place to ensure that.

But sexual misconduct isn't the only thing to rock politics this week. The government lost its attempt to keep MPs in the dark about 58 documents that have been prepared on the impact of Brexit. Using an ancient, but as it turned out, highly effective parliamentary procedure, Labour has forced the government to make the documents available to MPs. I'm glad this has happened: how on earth can I do my job of scrutinising government policies to ensure they are in the best interests of people in Stretford and Urmston if the government withholds the information I need to do so?

After a long delay, the European Scrutiny Committee has also been reconstituted this week, which studies new EU legislation for its effect in the UK. I've been reappointed to the committee, and with Brexit looming, we can expect to be very busy. 

As regular readers of my blogs will know, I am particularly interested in Justice issues. There have been very useful briefings this week on legal aid, community sentences, and a statement from the government on prisoners' right to vote. This political hot potato has been ignored by governments for years, despite the UK's blanket ban on prisoner votes being ruled illegal by the European Court of Human Rights. In 2011, I was one of 22 MPs to vote against the ban, so I listened to the Lord Chancellor's statement with interest. His concession, which affects just around 100 prisoners out of a prison population of around 90,000, shows the government doing the very barest minimum to respond to the court's ruling. I realise this won't be a very popular cause with many people, but that won't stop me arguing for a more proportionate policy. 

I've also attended meetings this week on issues that are especially relevant or of interest to my constituents. The Sikh Federation launched an important report calling for an independent inquiry into the role of the UK government in the 1984 massacre at the Golden Temple in Amritsar. Muslim Engagement and Development held an event to mark Islamophobia Awareness month. The transport secretary, Chris Grayling, held a meeting with Greater Manchester MPs, at which I raised my profound dissatisfaction with the train service between Manchester Oxford Road and Liverpool Lime Street. Child Poverty Action Group came to brief MPs on universal credit.

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Back in the constituency, it's also been a varied and busy few days. Thanks to local Labour party members who joined me in presenting a protest to the local Sainsburys in Woodsend to pass on to the company's head office about Sainsbury's plans to ditch the Fairtrade mark. I was pleased to attend the Mayor's civic service at St Michael's church in Flixton. It was great to visit Limelight, the new community centre in Old Trafford, to attend Manchester United Disabled Supporters' annual dinner, and to speak at the launch of the Caribbean and African Health Network. And I was very happy to present cheques to three Old Trafford community projects which are benefiting from St John's 'sunshine'.  

I'd been thinking I'd had quite a quiet week this past week, but writing this has made me realise rather a lot has been happening! We MPs do a very strange job - if you'd like to know more about what it's like, why not join my live Facebook chat at the start of Parliament Week on 13 November - for details and to sign up, click here.

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