This is my e-bulletin to update you on my work in Parliament and in North East Derbyshire. I hope you find it of interest. Most of all, I hope you will send me your comments either by email, through my website, on Facebook or Twitter.
Or you can always write to me at the House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA or call me in the constituency office on 01246 439018 or in Westminster on 02072191015.
Parliament Week (15 to 20 November) is the one week in the year dedicated to expanding people’s knowledge of Parliament and helping them engage more with the political process.
This year’s theme was Women in Democracy. I attended and took part in quite a few events this year and it is fantastic to see so many people asking questions and getting involved with democracy and their Parliament.
UK Youth Parliament votes for Votes at 16
296 young people, representing children and young people from across the country, debated 5 topics in the chamber, which were ‘Votes for 16 and 17 year olds in all public elections’, ‘A curriculum for life’, ‘zero tolerance towards bullying in schools’, ‘combating youth unemployment’ and ‘better work experience and careers advice’.
At the end of the debate, the young people voted for the subject they wanted to have as their issue to campaign on for the year ahead. The majority voted for lowering the voting age to 16.
This is an issue on which I have campaigned for many years so I was delighted to hear the result.
This is also the one day a year that I get to speak from the Despatch Box to wind up the debate at the end of the day. I was very impressed by both the quality and manner of the debate when young people listened attentively and respectfully to opposing points of view. I was not the only one to point out that our Parliament could learn from theirs.
Questioning the Deputy Prime Minister
Fresh from the UK Youth Parliament’s sitting I was able to put their cause directly to Government and on 19 November I asked the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, when the Government would consider bringing forward plans to lower the voting age.
Young People’s Question Time
On Monday 18 November I was asked to appear at a Question Time event for young people, as the Labour Party representative. Chaired by Channel 4’s Krishnan Guru-Murthy, it was another lively and entertaining discussion which ranged from the need to have more women in politics to the importance of safe cycling.
There were young people from all over the country represented in the audience but it was a particular pleasure to see students from Eckington School in Westminster.
The Pendulum of Power
In Wednesday 20 November, as Chair of the Backbench Business Committee, I was invited to a Cabinet Office discussion about the power and role of Parliament and how it interacts with Government.
On the panel were Andrew Lansley, the Leader of the House, Angela Eagle, the Shadow Leader of the House, and the Liberal Democrat peer Lord Tyler. The discussion focussed on reforms in Parliament and how we can make ourselves more accessible to the people we represent. I spoke about e-petitions and how we should use them as a way of educating and engaging with people.
We also discussed the role of social media.
First News Debate
It was chaired by former House of Commons Speaker Betty Boothroyd and had author Malorie Blackman, the children’s laureate, on the panel.
We answered questions about how much we thought we were squandering our Olympic legacy by not using it well enough to keep young people keen on sports, about the amount of homework that young people are set, and about green energy. We also had some difficult questions about welfare reform and benefits.
They were a very impressive group of young people.
Blacklisting – Day of Action
I have campaigned against blacklisting with my unions UCATT and GMB for many years so it was with great pleasure that I took part in the demonstration outside Parliament on 20 November.
It is always an honour to be asked to lay a
wreath at services to remember our fallen soldiers, and this year I was able to attend the services in Eckington and Killamarsh to pay my respects. It was the first time that I attended the service in Eckington and it was a great pleasure to march alongside Mr Tomlinson.
On 14 November in Killamarsh, HS2 Ltd held a consultation to show the public the impact of the HS2 proposals on the local area, and I was able to put the case of the residents forward.
I am strongly opposed to the current Government HS2 plans which I think are financially spiralling out of control and ill-thought through. I have twice voted against this scheme in Parliament.
Congratulations to Jodie and Russ Beal who gave birth to baby Fletcher Blake, the youngest NO2HS2 campaigner. It was great to meet Fletcher at the event.
Bully Banks and Interest Rate Swaps
This is another issue on which I have been campaigning for some years now after meeting business owners in North East Derbyshire.
They told me about Interest Rate Swaps, complicated financial products which the banks mis-sold to many businesses that are now, as a result of the bad loan, going bust even though their businesses would have been perfectly viable.
I have, since then, been a member of the All Party Group on Interest Rate Swaps and took part in a debate on 24 October in which we secured a meeting with the Banking Minister, Sajid Javid together with Bully Banks. Bully Banks are an umbrella group representing the interests of those businesses affected by this latest mis-selling scandal.
Bob Clough Memorial
It was a great pleasure to have been asked to attend the unveiling of a plaque to mark the contribution of Bob Clough to Dronfield.
The number of people who came to his memorial are testament to the number of lives he touched. He was active in every civic society and group in Dronfield, even setting some of them up. Peter Hayward spoke movingly about what Bob meant to the town and it was wonderful to see his widow
Irene and family.
But most of all I think Bob would have appreciated the makeshift blu-tac used to cover the plaque before it was unveiled. A stroke of genius from Michael Muntus!
NHS Practice Managers
On 8 November I met with NHS Practice Managers in North Wingfield to discuss their thoughts on current Government health policy and to exchange thoughts and ideas.
We spoke generally about the loss of a whole host of health professionals under this coalition Government, including GPs, Community Nurses, Midwives and Health Visitors and the difficulty they faced in terms of recruitment.
Their chief concern was the imminent data-sharing of patients’ records. They are very concerned that patients will be unaware of the fact that from January patient records will be shared (Electronic Data Sharing). If patients do not want this, they have to opt out, but as most people don’t know this is happening, the GP practice managers
are concerned about patients not being
able to make informed decisions.
The Bedroom Tax
On 12 November the Labour Party held a debate in the House of Commons on the Bedroom Tax. This is a policy that threatens the most vulnerable members in our society, particularly people with a disability and I strongly oppose it.
Tours of Parliament
It is always a great pleasure showing constituents around the building. Please get in touch if you want to visit the Palace yourself in the future.
National Federation of Retail Newsagents
He, with the National Federation of Retail Newsagents, had come to Parliament to speak about issues affecting small retailers. We had an excellent discussion on the day, and I look forward to working with him on his concerns in the near future.
Backbench Business Committee
The Backbench Business Committee, which I chair, has allocated time in Parliament next week to the issues facing small businesses, the G8 summit on dementia, Police procedures dealing with mental health issues, and issues around High Street Retail.
You can watch all of these debates live on BBC Parliament
Christmas Card Congratulations!
I am pleased to announce that this year’s winning Christmas Card design is 4 year old Katie Barteczko Hibbert from Temple Normanton Primary School. Congratulations to her, and a huge thank you to all of those who entered this year’s competition. I loved looking through all of the beautiful designs.