New Ferry/New Beginnings
I want to start the New Ferry update by letting everyone know how hard New Beginnings have been working to get their new building ready before opening to the public next month. I know they have been working tirelessly and that they will benefit the community a lot once it is set up. They will offer services including counselling for people who were impacted by the blast. We also have the Phab Hub in New Ferry which does great work to support the community. Wirral Council have submitted the further information to accompany the regeneration plans to the government. If you remember the government requested further information before they would respond I have sent a letter to the government along with Metro Mayor Steve Rotherham urging them to help now that they have all the information from the local authority. I have also invited people to get in touch if they want to share their views with Sajid Javid. The council updated residents and businesses about this at recent meeting. The police also updated residents at the meeting on the investigation with the defendants set to appear in court in April.
It was a pleasure to be interviewed by both Birkenhead School and Bebington High School for their BBC School reports project. Students from both schools conducted interviews with me about my role as an MP for the initiative which gives pupils from school a chance to make their own news and I was very impressed with them. I look forward to seeing the final interviews. It was a great to welcome Wirral Grammar School for Boys to Westminster recently following their tour of Parliament. I caught up with them afterwards to talk about their tour and the workings of Westminster. This month I also spoke about Bebington High School in the House of Commons during a debate on numeracy and Literacy. I have been meeting with the school regularly. The issue I raised was the lack of government resources put in to education in Wirral. Minister for Nick Gibb agreed to meet with me about the specific case of Bebington High School. I want every pupil in Wirral to be receiving excellent education and I know the schools do a marvellous job. I wanted to address government funding and this is why I raised it in the House.
Centenary of women getting the vote
This month marked 100 years since women were first given the vote in the UK. The Representation of the People Act gave the right to women over 30 who owned a property and as time has gone on that has extended to all women over today’s voting age which is 18. There has been a lot going on to mark the centenary in Parliament and around the country to remember the struggle that our previous generations went through for the future generations. It’s quite hard to imagine for women now not being able to have this right but for so many women it was a reality. We should always remember the sacrifice of the suffragettes to give us the ability to have a say in how we are represented in Parliament and use this opportunity to see how we can carry on to increase equality in our Parliament and our society. There is still progress to be made around equality. I gave an interview to Radio Merseyside to talk about the centenary and the significance of it and what life is like being a female MP in these current times. It is important that all our future generations know the history and the sacrifice that was made. We will never know where women would be now without that struggle with the authorities and with Parliament for the right to vote.
Contaminated blood Urgent Question
There was an urgent question held in the House of Commons on the 29 January put forward by my Labour colleague Diana Johnson MP regarding the contaminated blood scandal. Diana is leading on this issue and I was in the chamber to hear the Urgent Question and to take part in the debate. I have met privately with a family who lost their son because of contaminated blood and I raised their own experience during this debate. They spoke candidly about their experience. The Urgent Question focussed on an inquiry and the delay in establishing a chair to lead it. I will continue to follow any developments in this case. I would also continue to want to speak to anybody who has been affected if they want to come and see me.
We need more transparency from the government about the economic impact of Brexit and what the government’s own assessment is showing. People have a right to know about the national and regional impact. The embarrassing leak of analysis to Buzzfeed a few weeks ago just highlights the transparency that the government seems to be hindering. It’s important we have a clear idea of what the impact will be and what the government’s own analysis is showing. The British public deserves to know what studies are showing about the impact of Brexit. I spoke in a debate about this matter in the House of Commons when Kier Stammer raised it. The Brexit fact bus was in Liverpool today. The bus aims to counteract the bus used by the Leave campaign in the referendum and the infamous statement about funding for the NHS in the event of a leave vote. I was pleased that the bus visited our region and gave a counter-argument to the claims by the likes of Boris Johnson. On January the 29 in Parliament, there was an event which I helped host with invited guest Yanis Varoufakis. The event was well attended and I was also joined by my colleagues Heidi Alexander and Chuka Umunna. Yanis Varoufakis is a Greek economist and he made a valuable input to the discussion regarding the future relations of the UK with Europe in terms of a trading relationship. As part of my work for Britain to remain in the single market I am calling for members and supporters to have more of a say on Labour’s Brexit policy by establishing a dedicated policy commission on Brexit. I am calling on the National Executive Committee to set up such a policy commission and I am encouraging people to share their comments on Brexit if they should wish to do. I think it’s important that they are given the opportunity to do so. In excess of 16,000 responded to the request to share their views on Brexit. I think this shows that people in the Labour Party do want to be listened to about Brexit.
There’s been an escalation in the conflict in Syria. We know the attacks in Syria are merciless and that innocent civilians are suffering every day with attacks on the most vulnerable in places which should be safe havens such as hospitals. It’s a desperate situation. I have written an article on the current situation in Syria. I have also asked a question in the House of Commons when the chamber discussed the use of chemical weapons in Syria. My question was about what we can do to monitor and collect evidence for the crimes committed against civilians.
Organ donation Private Members Bill
I was in Parliament today for the second reading of this Bill. The Bill has been put forward by Labour MP Geoffrey Robinson and aims to change the system in England to an opt-out system. The current law means that a person has to opt-in to be a donor in the event of their death so this would make a huge difference if it became law. It would mean that everyone is considered an organ donor unless they state otherwise. Organ donation saves lives and I am happy to support this Bill. It’s an important issue and I know this matters to a lot of people. We need more donors and this Bill is a way to achieve this happening. The Bill is supported by the likes of the British Heart Foundation. The Bill passed its second reading which was good news and I was happy I was there to support it.
Other visits and updates
Last Friday I visited Chester Labour students to talk about women in politics and the barriers yet to be broken. I had a really good time with the students and applaud them on a great event. I also went to launch of Imagine Wirral to find out about Wirral Council plans for culture and creativity in the borough over the next year. The launch took place at Birkenhead Town Hall and included speeches from Cllr Christine Spriggs, the Chief Executive Eric Robinson and Council Leader Phil Davies. Wirral has a brilliant cultural heritage and it will be exciting to celebrate and build on this. There was some great entertainment on the night as well which I really enjoyed. Some time ago I took part in a student project which looked at the economic impact of the Port Sunlight River Park. I have been told that positive results came out of this showing that there has been positive findings. I will be continuing my work alongside the park as Chair of the committee and I just wanted to put on record the welcome findings from the study. I am waiting for brochures detailing this study but if you’d like to see one please get in touch. The volunteers work incredibly hard at the park and do activities such as litter picking for the local area. There is New Ferry Big Spring Clean coming up on the 3rd March meeting at Mayfields Car Park at 10am if anyone would like to take part. It was a pleasure to visit Birch Tree Manor this month in Port Sunlight to talk about care with the residents there. I was invited along for Dignity in Action Day. Care and looking after our elderly population is a really important issue. Care is not just taking care of somebody’s needs but also treating them with compassion and empathy. This was the main aspect of the discussion. I gave a speech about this and then discussed it with residents afterwards. I visit care homes and residential homes regularly to discuss issues such as care and this is something I will continue to do.