Michael Mansfield QC agrees to chair ‘People’s Commission’ into future of HRI

As a supporter of the #HandsOffHRI campaign since the beginning, I was very encouraged to hear the most recent update from the campaign – that Michael Mansfield QC has agreed to chair a ‘People’s Commission’ into the proposed removal of local A&E services and downgrade/closure of our hospital. Michael Mansfield is one of the highest profile barristers in the country and has previously chaired two such commissions into proposed hospital closures, as well as inquiries into the Grenfell and Hillsborough disasters and more. 

I want to thank and pay tribute to the #HandsOffHRI campaigners, who have kept up their campaign for four years now. As a local resident, I was a member of the campaign, and as your MP, I have continued to support campaigners in Parliament – so I know how hard they have all worked to keep up the pressure against this threat to our NHS.

A statement from the campaign today said:

“We believe it’s vital that we test out these proposals and hear, first hand, from people who work and use the services. We’re delighted that Mr Mansfield has agreed to lead this Commission. He will bring his famously analytical mind to what has become a complex set of plans and proposals from a myriad of organisations and he will test the robustness of these plans. An organising committee will be formed to co-ordinate and oversee the process and volunteers who feel they have the necessary skills and interest are encouraged to apply via email to admin@peoplescommissionhudds.org”.

Human rights abuses in Kashmir

Many constituents have written to me recently about the human rights crisis in Kashmir. I was honoured to be able to meet Prime Minister Farooq Haider Khan in Westminster, along with other Labour colleagues, to discuss the escalating situation. It is crucial that MPs in the UK support all those around the world suffering human rights abuses – and I am keen to also support constituents of the Colne Valley of Kashmiri background, many of whom still have family there.

Beaumont Park awarded “Best Park in Yorkshire”

I was incredibly proud that Beaumont Park in Crosland Moor was awarded the title of “Best Park in Yorkshire” in the UK’s Best Park 2019 Competition. I remember taking my own children to the park when they were young, and of course it was the scene of Jeremy Corbyn’s visit to our area in 2017 when huge crowds filled the park to listen. This is an incredibly well-deserved award – well done to the Friends of Beaumont Park volunteers and to John, the park’s head gardener.

Holmfirth Street Surgery

Today I spent some of the morning in Holmfirth centre talking to local people. I had discussions about the river, the road scheme and of course the national picture, among many other issues. Spending time in the constituency, talking to local people, remains my favourite part of being your MP!

Visit to the Welcome Centre

This morning I visited the Welcome Centre in Huddersfield to talk to them about the #FeedingFamilies project. They are so well organised and provide a brilliant service, but it breaks my heart that in one of the richest countries in the world, vulnerable children depend on food banks to survive.

Since the Conservatives took power in 2010, a million more children are living in poverty. More than 8 million people struggle to put food on the table. For the first time in history under this Government, most people living below the poverty line are also in work. The users of food banks are not a handful of the very poorest – they are professionals, graduates, nurses, teaching assistants, those with two or more jobs struggling to make ends meet. The Conservative Government’s sanctions regime has given the state licence to quite literally starve people – with no justification in most cases; roughly half of all appeals are upheld.

As a former teacher and head teacher, I am all too familiar with children returning to school after the holidays visibly malnourished and underfed. Far from being ready to learn, these children suffered poorer concentration, more challenging behaviours, lower attainment, and physical health problems. It was heartbreaking to see.

I will continue to support our local food banks and tackling poverty initiatives – and fighting in Westminster to stop them being needed.

Slaithwaite Street Surgery

It was great to be out in Slaithwaite over lunchtime today with local Labour councillors, chatting to local residents.

Unfortunately, we heard from far too many people who are struggling with issues like Universal Credit and insecure employment. I never stop being amazed and impressed by the creativity and resilience of Colne Valley residents, and it is heartbreaking to see how much potential is being wasted by the punitive austerity policies of this government.

This is not a Cabinet fit to represent our country on the national and international stage

With the appointment of every Cabinet since 2010, I have had concerns about the policies that appointed ministers are likely to pursue. However, this is the first time I can remember being so deeply worried about the complete lack of honesty and integrity that those now in charge of our country have displayed over many years.

Boris Johnson is clearly in a rush to appoint people to these posts, given that he has so little time left before the Brexit deadline of October 31st. But the office of Prime Minister is not to be taken lightly. These are highly responsible roles, with implications for all our lives, and it is typical of Johnson’s style of leadership that he has appointed such deeply inappropriate individuals in such a slapdash way.

Sajid Javid has taken up the post of Chancellor and now holds the reins of our economy. Javid likes to make much of his family background – the son of immigrants made good, experienced in being a victim of racism, working class Tory. It is therefore inexplicable that as Home Secretary, despite promises to create a more “humane” immigration system, he did nothing to resolve the Windrush scandal and infamously tried to deport a woman in a coma.

Priti Patel is in charge of our domestic security as Home Secretary – an incredibly concerning move, given that her last ministerial post ended abruptly after she was discovered having organised secret meetings with Israel to funnel UK foreign aid money to the Israeli army. Again, despite coming from an immigrant background herself, she has repeatedly blamed “immigrants” for the issues in our NHS despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. This is almost as concerning as her support for the death penalty – again, despite overwhelming evidence against it.

In another deeply worrying move for our national security, Gavin Williamson has been re-appointed to Cabinet in the role of Education Secretary. Like our new Home Secretary, Williams was found guilty and sacked just a few weeks ago for leaking details of a National Security Council meeting to a Chinese company, Huawei, with close links to the Chinese government. What he knows about education is yet to become apparent.

Michael Gove, who presided over the establishment of a joyless curriculum and the universal decline in standards in our education system, has been appointed minister for no deal planning. Presumably his strategy is that if we all just read a lot of Rudyard Kipling poetry, we will be filled with enough imperialistic zeal that we don’t notice the crippling food and medicine shortages.

Amber Rudd has kept her position as Work and Pensions secretary, possibly because nobody else is willing to touch the colossal disaster that is Universal Credit with a bargepole. The MP for Hastings, who narrowly kept her seat in 2017, most recently said that there needed to be “more compassion” in the DWP, which will come as a great relief to my constituent with double incontinence and constant severe pain, who has recently been told she is not eligible for PIP and needs to start spending 37 hours a week looking for jobs.

Astoundingly, Johnson has also appointed his brother Jo Johnson to a ministerial role in Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy. For all the noises the Tories make about social mobility and rewarding talent, we are now drawing our highest offices in the land not only from the same school, but from the same family.

The issues in our transport system nationally – not least the problems on our railways, which I am contacted about on a near-daily basis – are crying out for strong political leadership and a strategic overhaul. Commentators from across the political spectrum have acknowledged that a major issue in how our railways operate is the complexity of the franchising system, and a lack of transparency and public accountability. Newly appointed Transport Minister Grant Shapps (aka “Michael Green”) is very well-placed to navigate his way through this, having previously used several pseudoyms to avoid detection of his multiple jobs.

At a time when the international situation feels increasingly febrile, it is frankly frightening that we have a Foreign Secretary who admitted failing to realise that many goods arrive to our island nation by boat. How can we trust such a man on the international stage on our behalf, trying to defuse deeply complex situations in the Middle East, or negotiating to avert a nuclear war, when the absolute basics have somehow passed him by?

As worrying as these individual appointments are, the big picture is also deeply disturbing. The new appointments represent a lurch to the right and an overwhelming majority of hard Brexiteers, at a time when a responsible Prime Minister would be seeking to bring the country together. There is also an unacceptable level of outdated views and prejudice which cannot become the new norm in our society.

This is not a Cabinet fit to represent our country on the national and international stage. It is a rogues’ gallery of the dishonest, the untrustworthy, the incompetent, and the intolerant, inflicted on us by less than 0.5% of the population. While I may never have agreed with the views of previous Tory Cabinet ministers, this unfitness for office is unprecedented. To put this group of people in charge at such a crucial time in our nation’s history is to gamble with all of our futures.

My constituents deserve better than this. Our country deserves better than this.

Music in Education

Today I gave a speech in the Westminster Hall debate on music in education – an issue which is very close to my heart. I spoke about the importance of music in everyone’s lives and the benefit it brings to a child’s education The recent “Primary Colours” report concluded that our children now are receiving nowhere near the same provision of the creative arts as they did a generation ago.

For many children, school is their first exposure to all kinds of art, theatre, music, and culture – and it is unforgivable that we are moving backwards on this. Not only does this have consequences for those children personally, it holds us back as a society. In our history we have produced so many fantastic actors, artists, literature, and more – I will continue putting pressure on the government not to let these areas become the preserve of a privileged few.

#LayDown4CF

I have continued to support the national #LayDown4CF campaign, led by the parents of cystic fibrosis sufferers – including families in Colne Valley – pushing for the drug Orkambi to be made available on the NHS. Orkambi can be life-changing for sufferers of CF, but Vertex – the company which produces the drug – have rejected the NHS’s biggest pay offer ever of £500 million over five years.

I joined their protest in Parliament Square, which was partly a memorial to those lives lost from CF, and partly a plea to the government to step in and end the impasse. It is unacceptable that children’s lives are being held to ransom in this way and I was honoured to raise the case of local families in Parliament.