It has been a sombre week in parliament, as MPs received regular updates from government ministers about the Russian attack on Ukraine.
There is cross party, and indeed international, outrage at the actions of President Putin in invading an independent, democratic neighbour. The UK and other western governments have imposed a series of economic sanctions on Russia, and next week MPs will be presented with new legislation to tighten the screw further. If constituents have concerns about family members in Ukraine, please don’t hesitate to contact my office, and I will do what I can to help.
It has also been a depressing week for university students, as the government finally announced its plans for the future of student funding. The salary threshold at which graduates have to start repaying their student loans will be reduced from £27,000 to £25,000. The period over which they will have to make repayments will be extended from 30 to 40 years. Meanwhile, university tuition fees have been frozen for a further two years, which will mean less funding, and threatens cuts to courses. Even the government’s own assessment of the impact of these changes is that they will hit women, disadvantaged students, those with special educational needs and disabilities, and those in the north and the Midlands the hardest. You couldn’t create a more unjust set of funding arrangements if you tried.
It’s been all the harder to be back in parliament for such a miserable set of events this week after enjoying last week at home for the half term break. I was delighted to visit the One World Cafe, which is run by a group of young people with learning disabilities supported by Trafford Choices. I was thrilled to find some of the young people there who’d previously done work experience in my office – it was great to catch up with them and hear about the progress they’ve made. Thank you for such a lovely welcome – and for the delicious soup!
I also very much enjoyed visiting Trafford African Caribbean Over 50’s club at St John’s Centre in Old Trafford. This lovely group has been going for many years, but is especially valued by its members now after many have spent so much of the past two years in self isolation.
We’re halfway through Fairtrade Fortnight, when we support farmers and producers in developing economies to receive fair payment and working conditions, and to access new markets for their produce. One of my very favourite events is my Fairtrade coffee morning, which I’m holding this year on Friday 4 March from 10 am to 1130 am at Christ Church in Davyhulme. All constituents are welcome to come and enjoy wonderful Fairtrade coffee, tea and cakes, with all proceeds going to Action Aid. I’ve really missed this event during the last two years of the pandemic, and I hope to see many of you there!