It’s been a surprisingly routine week in Westminster, with no major Brexit votes or debates, and so I’ve had time to get on with business as usual. That included attending a packed debate on schools funding on Monday, raising concerns about poor assessment processes for disability benefits on Wednesday, and participating in a debate on short prison sentences on Thursday (spoiler alert, they’re pretty useless at reducing offending). I also had time for meetings with a delegation of MPs visiting our parliament from North Macedonia, with TellMAMA, which supports reporting and monitoring of Islamophobic hate crime, with representatives of the construction industry, and to speak about the Domestic Abuse bill at an event organised by the Traveller Movement.
Tuesday saw me spend most of the day in discussions and debates about immigration policy. I’ve been a member of the committee scrutinising the detail of the Immigration bill, and led debates in the committee on subjects as wide ranging as how we can prevent exploitative employers from taking advantage of migrant labour, to how government will guarantee British children’s welfare if their non-British parent is liable to deportation because they don’t have a legal entitlement to stay here. It’s almost always in children’s best interest to remain with their parents, and if a child has British citizenship, it can’t be right to expect them to leave the country. I argued children’s wellbeing should always be the deciding factor in any decision to deport their parent, and if it’s best for their kids, parents must be allowed to stay here.
In the evening, I joined a panel debating what kind of immigration system our businesses will need post-Brexit. Many companies and public services depend on EU workers to fill gaps in their workforce, in a range of sectors from the NHS to hospitality to agriculture and food processing. The government’s immigration policy of ending free movement will cause real problems – the UK employment rate is already at a record high, so there simply aren’t enough British workers to do the jobs that are needed. You can read my blog about the event and the kind of immigration policy I think we need here.
The end of last week saw the usual busy programme of activities in the constituency. Thank you to everyone who attended my Fair Trade coffee morning last Friday, with special thanks to Karina and Shirley for fabulous cakes, to students from Manor Academy who helped to welcome people, and to our hosts at Christ Church in Davyhulme. We raised over £100 for Action Aid – thank you everyone for your generosity.
I was also pleased to be able to pop into the World Wild Life event at Stretford public hall last Sunday. And it was great to spend time with women party members at the question time organised by my colleague Cllr Jo Harding, and with members of Trafford Young Labour. They told me that some schools couldn’t afford to provide the textbooks they need for their A level courses until halfway through the academic year – a point I was able to raise with the minister the very next day in the debate on schools funding. I really like it when I can take local concerns straight back to parliament.
PS The train service through Urmston from Liverpool Lime Street to Manchester Oxford Road has been appalling again this week. More and more people are driving to work because the service is so poor, increasing congestion and pollution. Passengers are totally fed up, and Mayor Andy Burnham has given Northern Rail till May to get their act together. They really are in the last chance saloon. In my view, if they can’t run the franchise properly, it should come straight back into public ownership.