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Rewarding visits in Manchester and important debates in parliament running up to Easter


Two weeks ago in Manchester I made some very rewarding visits. The first was to the Women’s Centre, which provides really effective support to women offenders or women who might be at risk of becoming involved in the criminal justice system. Most women who get prison sentences serve literally just a few days, but in that time everything in their lives can fall apart - often they lose their home or their children. There’s so much evidence that women offenders present less risk to society, and as many have often been victims of abuse themselves, punishment alone won’t work. The women’s centre is a really cost effective alternative to prison for these women, and gets much better results. 
After that visit, I headed over to the Greater Manchester Refugee Integration conference, where refugees and community groups were discussing what we can do to make refugees who flee persecution welcome here. Helping them to settle into their new community is so important, so access to English classes, help to find a job or training, and sharing different cultural experiences are all important. And in fact this is exactly what people said at my community integration event in Old Trafford that I wrote about in my last blog.
That Saturday also saw me spend time with two different, fabulous groups. I completed the final kilometre of the PSP Association’s virtual 5K charity walk in Davyhulme, walking with volunteers and families to raise awareness of this little known disease. Then it was on to meet Diaspora Women in Unity who launched their Mukabo campaign for road safety in Zambia. Developing countries have much higher rates of road accidents, and I want to pay a special tribute to my constituent Carolyne who has set up this group as a result of a tragedy in her home community that took many lives.

Back down in London, I began last week with a meeting with campaign group Fertility Fairness to talk about the threatened cuts to IVF services in Trafford. I am very glad NHS bosses have now backed down from these proposals, but Trafford still offers fewer IVF cycles than other parts of Greater Manchester, and fewer than national guidelines say that it should. So we will still be campaigning for a fair deal.
Monday evening saw one of the most painful experiences I have had as a member of parliament, when I joined hundreds of demonstrators outside parliament to speak out against antisemitism, including in my own party. I have always been so proud of Labour’s record of standing up to racism, so it was a source of enormous shame and sadness that the Jewish Leadership Council and Board of Deputies felt the need to call this event. We cannot tolerate racism of any sort in the Labour movement, and I am glad we had a clear statement from Jeremy Corbyn, following the demonstration, that neither he nor anyone else will condone antisemitism in our party, and we will always act to root it out. I’m also very glad that our own local Labour party has taken the exact same stance. 
Also last week, the independent report on the Manchester Arena attack was published. It praised the brave and compassionate efforts of the emergency services, rail and transport staff, hospitals, and many wonderful volunteers, though there were also some important lessons to learn about what needs to change. Lucy Powell MP arranged for an urgent statement about the report findings from the minister, and Manchester MPs joined her in the chamber to welcome the report. I particularly drew attention to the superb support offered by our different faith communities, and many MPs spoke about the united spirit Manchester showed after the attack, and the pride we all take in that.
Later in the day, I attended the launch of an important report by AgeUK on how we provide care for older people. AgeUK Trafford had contributed to the findings at a meeting I attended recently with local residents, and it was great to welcome constituent Jacqui to parliament for the launch.

On Thursday, I was in the main chamber to ask a question about the inquiry into the contaminated blood scandal, an inquiry which is only finally happening many decades after some NHS patients received transfusions of infected blood. I am glad we will finally make amends for what they suffered, but it is such an injustice that some people (including a constituent in Stretford and Urmston) have had to wait over 30 years for this.
In the afternoon, I switched over to our second chamber, in Westminster Hall, to join a debate on Brexit and the justice system, since I particularly wanted to raise questions about how we protect children from international crime, abduction, child sexual abuse and trafficking if we are no longer members of Europol, are not part of the European Arrest Warrant scheme, and can’t access databases on criminal records across the EU. It really is high time ministers told us how they are going to address these vitally important issues. I don’t doubt their determination to find a solution, but on the government’s timetable we will leave the EU in just one year, and we need to know the details of how we will keep our children safe.
Parliament then broke for Easter recess which we are in the middle of now. I hope everyone who celebrated it had a very happy Easter.

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