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The Budget, Dubs amendment, justice questions and more...


The big disappointment this week was losing the vote in the House of Commons to reinstate the 'Dubs amendment'. This would have reversed the government's decision to end the admission of unaccompanied child asylum seekers from the camps in Europe. It was a close vote; we lost 267/287. But in the end, only three Conservative MPs were prepared to vote with Labour to stand up for these vulnerable children.

The day before, I'd pointed out to the Home Secretary that here in Trafford we are ready and willing to welcome asylum seeking children. I know that many people locally are keen to do all we can for those who have suffered so terribly, losing family, home and security as a result of war.
Tuesday's questions were to Justice ministers, a subject in which I take a lot of interest. I was back in the chamber to ask questions about recalls to prison, and why the government won't take action to crack down on claims management companies- the ones that make those infuriating and intrusive telephone calls about damages claims for accidents that people never had.
In the afternoon, a celebration in the House of Lords. Ten years ago, Baroness Jean Corston wrote her seminal report on women in prison, which transformed policy and practice in so many ways. While there's still lots to do to implement all her recommendations, and far too many women remain in prison who are mentally ill or who themselves have suffered abuse, it was a lovely opportunity to meet campaigners, and some of the former offenders who had their lives transformed by Jean's report.
Then it was on to a meeting with the Care Quality Commission to hear about their inspection process for social care.
Of course, the big event in parliament this week was the chancellor's budget on Wednesday. It was a surprisingly subdued affair. And full of disappointments.  More money to open new selective and free schools that serve only a minority of children, but a meagre sum for existing schools that are already being forced to cut staff and activities in order to balance the books. Money for social care, but still nowhere near enough. Self-employed people face a hike in their national insurance costs. And, astonishingly, apart from a passing mention at the start of his speech, nothing about the impact Brexit will have on our economy, and nothing about the government's plans to mitigate the costs and risks. You can read my full comment on the budget here.
After the budget statement, I spent two hours in a committee session, questioning the minister responsible for agriculture and fisheries about what Brexit will mean for farming and fishing. We don't have much in the way of a fishing fleet here in Stretford and Urmston(!), but I do represent some farmers, so I hope our questions to the minister addressed their concerns.
Alongside all that's been happening in parliament, there's been a lot of constituency activity too. It was great to attend not one but two student politics groups last week, meeting students from Stretford and Urmston at Blessed Thomas Holford and Loreto Colleges. I spent last Saturday afternoon riding in the front passenger seat alongside Trafford cabbie John, learning what it's like to drive a cab on a busy Saturday, after a match at Old Trafford, and about some of the challenges black cab drivers face. And I was delighted to welcome ESB, Irish owners of the Carrington power station, along with the Irish ambassador and other guests, to lunch in parliament on Thursday to celebrate the new power station going into operation - and an early celebration of St Patrick's day!

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