It was an enormous pleasure to join Mayor of Trafford Cllr Laurence Walsh, and fellow councillors, at Voice of BME Trafford’s community seminar on health inequalities last Friday. I first got to know VBME-T when I was Labour’s candidate in the 2010 election, and I have been so impressed to watch them as they have gone from strength to strength over the past decade.
Their work on encouraging the local community to adopt healthy living measures and take up screening opportunities has already made a difference, but during the covid pandemic, it has become more important than ever, with programmes to improve mental health and peer support to encourage people to take up the vaccine. I congratulate everyone involved in this excellent, community-led organisation. Your work is so valuable.
Meanwhile, in Westminster, it hasn’t been a good week for the Prime Minister. His speech to the CBI on Monday was frankly bizarre, with references to Peppa Pig and motor car noises, but absolutely no substance. Keir Starmer, by contrast, set out a serious set of proposals to support business and grow our economy. I’m particularly pleased that he announced the establishment of a Council of Skills Advisors to work with us as we develop our Ready for Work, Ready for Life curriculum for young people. This will take up a lot of my time over the coming months, and I’d love to know what my constituents think are the essential skills young people should have by the time they finish compulsory education. Of course, academic qualifications are important, but employers, teachers and young people themselves tell me they’d like much more time spent on life skills, like managing a budget, digital skills, and teamwork and communication.
We were all appalled by the news on Wednesday of the terrible deaths of 27 migrants in the English Channel. This is a desperately dangerous crossing, and MPs have been pleading for months for the Home Secretary to sit down with the French authorities and find a proper solution to open up safe routes and deter the evil people smugglers. I really hope the awful events of Wednesday night will mark a turning point in the government’s approach, but it shouldn’t take a tragedy like this to force ministers to rethink. Greater Manchester MPs wrote to the Home Secretary only last week to ask for swift action to remove the barriers to processing asylum claims, and provide support to those who come here to seek refuge. My constituency has always made refugees welcome, and I know this is something we care about very deeply. Now, my fellow MPs and I will be pressing the need for action harder than ever.
It’s especially ironic that the Home Affairs select committee should have reported this week that the government’s Windrush scheme still hasn’t paid out to people who are entitled to receive compensation. This poor treatment of those who came to the UK to help rebuild our country after the Second World War is just once more example of the government’s lack of care for those who make their home here. I strongly support the committee’s call for an independent body to take over the running of the scheme; if the government can’t get compensation to those who should receive it, then they should hand over the task to a body that can.