I wasn’t in parliament for the first couple of days this week, and by the time I got to Westminster on Wednesday, the government was running out of business for us to debate and vote on. That’s been a feature of Boris Johnson’s chaotic and incompetent government: insisting we come to parliament when many more MPs could be working and voting safely and remotely, yet without a plan to guide us through the covid crisis. As I write, there are reports that further restrictions will be imposed in the north of England. That will be devastating for many businesses and families in Stretford and Urmston, and it’s both unfair and impossible to make sense of the rules when other parts of the country with equally high or higher infection rates aren’t subject to extra restrictions. Keir Starmer asked a number of hard questions at Prime Minister’s questions on Wednesday about the logic of the local restrictions. He didn’t get an answer – because there isn’t a good one.
Even though I have to be in parliament in person to ask questions, speak in debates and vote, all my other meetings are on Teams and Zoom. It’s been the usual varied round related to my education brief, and really good to catch up with the Association of Colleges, the National Education Union, the Association of Education Psychologists, the BBC and the TUC.
The discussion with the TUC was especially important. We were dismayed and angry to read reports this week that the government intends to end funding for UnionLearn, the trade union learning fund for workers to retrain and gain new skills, many of whom have never previously gained qualifications. This fund has supported hundreds of thousands of learners over the past two decades, and delivers great value for money – the Department for Education’s own report shows it returns £12.30 to the economy in improved productivity and earnings for every £1 invested. It was just last week that Boris Johnson and education secretary Gavin Williamson were boasting of their commitment to adult education and lifelong learning. Cutting off funding for UnionLearn shows their promises are totally hollow. Labour will be working hard to force the government to make yet another u-turn.
National Hate Crime Awareness Week starts this weekend, and I’m proud to stand in solidarity with organisations fighting hate and prejudice. I was glad to join colleagues at the all party group for British Sikhs at their anti-hate crime event, and will be working with other organisations over the next few days to highlight action to tackle hateful and criminal behaviour. I am proud to represent a diverse and culturally rich constituency, and whether it’s racism, sexism, homophobia, abuse towards disabled people, or spreading division between different groups in our country, it is intolerable, and we must stand together to defeat it.