I often explain to my colleagues that I represent one of the most remarkable constituencies in the country. It’s so diverse, ranging from inner city to country farms, and with more iconic sites to visit than you can shake a stick at, including the Old Trafford cricket and football grounds, the Imperial War Museum North, and Coronation Street. We also have the Trafford Centre, which I visited last Friday, not to shop, but to view the incredible redevelopment at Barton Square and the nearly completed Metrolink extension. It is all very impressive.
Back in my Stretford office, I had two very interesting meetings, one with Rebecca from Suicide Bereavement UK, and one with Peter, who runs a childcare business. Rebecca explained there’s a need for better support for people bereaved by the suicide of a friend or family member, and more training for professionals. I’m taking that up with the council and the NHS locally.
Peter’s information about the state of childcare businesses was worrying. The government has been extending parents’ entitlement to free or affordable childcare, but it simply hasn’t provided the funding. Businesses are struggling and parents are getting desperate. I promised to raise this with colleagues back in Westminster.
Parliament has been busy this week with Conservative leadership candidates prowling the cafeterias and meeting places, hunting down Tory MPs to solicit their support. At one level, it’s amusing to watch, but this election is deadly serious for the country – though most of us won’t get any say in it. But with Boris Johnson as frontrunner, I feel really alarmed. We’ve all seen the offence and damage his careless arrogance can do, from the awful prolonging of Nazanin Zaghari Ratcliffe’s imprisonment in Iran to legitimising Islamophobic hate speech with his comments about Muslim women who wear the burka. He also glibly promises to take us out of the EU by the end of October, without giving us a clue how he will do that. Labour is deeply worried he might simply crash us out with no deal in place, and without giving parliament the chance to prevent it, and so on Wednesday we called an important vote to try to prevent that. But although some Tories voted with us, I’m really disappointed that some Labour colleagues did not. Whatever their views on Brexit, this was a vote that was about MPs being able use parliament to defend the interests of our constituents. We need to stand up for that.
It’s been a busy week of meetings. A group of MPs met children’s organisations to talk about how EU children in the care of local authorities will get settled status (or British citizenship if they’re eligible) after Brexit. The number of children affected is small, but if the local authority responsible for their care doesn’t sort out their status, these children could find themselves in exactly the same situation as the Windrush families in future. The settled status scheme is also causing problems for EU nationals who rent a property, and for landlords. MPs heard from the Residential Landlords Association and the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, as well as a representative of the ‘3 million’ EU nationals who live in the UK, who told us it would become even harder for those without a British passport to rent property in future.
The Home Affairs committee, of which I’m a member, held two interesting hearings this week, the first on tackling Islamophobia, and the second on the Gangs Matrix used by the metropolitan police to track people they believe may be drawn into gang culture, but about which there are serious concerns, with a very high proportion of those listed on the Matrix having been assessed as at low or no risk of causing harm or becoming involved in violence. Nobody disagrees with tracking individuals who present a risk, but this tool seems to be deeply flawed, not least because of the disproportionately high number of young black men recorded on it.
I also attended meetings with the Equitable Life action group, still forced to campaign 20 years on for compensation for their lost pensions; with a new enterprise called Proxy Address, which ensures homeless people have an address so that they can access public or financial services; with asylum campaigners who came to tell me about the campaign they will launch in Manchester next weekend jointly with Ben and Jerry’s (information at https://www.benjerry.co.uk/whats-new/2019/06/welcome-not-walls if you’d like to know more); with Trafford Councillor Steven Longden and education experts at a meeting Steven organised on phasing out private education; with the Learning and Work Institute to discuss their Youth Commission on young people’s skills and employment; with representatives of the Indian IT industry who wanted to know what would happen about Brexit (no, me neither); and a lovely reception to celebrate World Book Day’s #ShareourStory campaign.
In the chamber, I asked about funding for the police national database, and spoke in a debate about the great work World Jewish Relief are doing to support refugees into employment. The government might not be doing much work while the Tories sort out their leadership contest, but there has been plenty to keep me busy this week.