This week in Parliament I am leading for Labour on committee for the Digital Economy Bill. So far we have been working our way through the proposals line by line finding issues in the detail; last week we heard evidence from companies in the sector which highlighted how worryingly narrow this Bill is. It does little to cover concerns in the emerging digital sectors, such as Uber and Delievroo and provides little support for digital start-ups which are crucial to building our digital economy.It also contains woeful promises on broadband and only offers an aim for 10mbps for everyone by 2020, which is hardly ambitious. I also raised concerns on why the age restrictions on inappropriate material seem to have been watered down from what was originally promised to commercial sites only, and why the Government is now attempting to hand over responsibility to the BBC for over-75 TV licences to the broadcaster which could lead to this social security benefit for pensioners being cut. You can read more on my thoughts on the Bill here: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/louise-haigh-mp/digital-economy-bill_b_12534464.html I will be attending a Private Members Bill debate on Friday about Homelessness Reduction and Problem Debt. Two issues that need urgent action from this government, I am happy to support this Bill as you may be aware I have been warning since being elected last year about the growing burden of debt being moved off government books and on to the shoulders of ordinary working people. The private rental sector is too insecure for many tenants and homelessness is a growing issue for more and more families in sheffield. I hope that this Bill will be successfully passed and the issues furthered by this debate. I will be meeting with officials from the UGTT who were part of four organisations, Tunisian Confederation of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts, the Tunisian Human Rights League, and the Tunisian Order of Lawyers, who all won a Nobel peace prize last for their inspirational work reducing violence and potential for civil war in Tunisia. As part of my new role I will be attending the APPG for Video Games, with the UKIE who represent game developers across the country, this is an important growing industry in Sheffield and plays a vital role in providing skilled jobs for Sheffield in the future. I will also be meeting with Virgin Media and others about the wider digital economy, to discuss concerns over broadband and mobile phone coverage Back in Sheffield Graves football centre is opening this week and on Sunday 30th October I will be running the Sheffield 10k to raise funds for Sheffield Futures. I have chosen Sheffield Futures to raise money to support their services which provide help to young people in Sheffield and in their work to help individuals reach their full potential.
This week in Parliament, we had a meeting with the new Home Sec and the Orgeave truth and justice campaign, which I was invited by the campaign to chair, to discuss the possibility of an inquiry into the events surrounding Orgreave. I've been campaigning alongside the ex miners and the official campaign since before I entered Parliament and it's really good news that we're finally going to see progress on this as the Home Secretary committed to respond before the end of October. As many of you already know, I've been working on a number of Concentrix cases over the Summer and I'd worked with the Victoria Derbyshire and the Times to get the stories of the women affected out in the press, which led to a very short, successful campaign to remove Concentrix of their contract. The campaign will now turn to the entire payment by results model. We also received the Boundary Commission's first proposals for the boundary review, which relies on out-of-date data that does not take into account the real population of an area just the number of registered voters. Clearly with the introduction of individual registration bought in by the last government this means some areas will be vastly underrepresented under current plans. It will be interesting to see if the Government can get this past their own back benchers! The Pharmacies Minister also announced a pause in the planned cuts that could have seen pharmcies closing across the city. I have been running a campaign against this so was pleased to hear the Minister is taking stock, however we won’t be complacent on this issue and will continue to push for positive action for community pharmacies. During Transport Questions I asked to meet with the Minister about Taxi Licensing and child sexual exploitation, which they agreed to. I also met with the director of We Own it to discuss franchising of bus services and how we can get greater local control over buses - an issue I know lots of constituents are concerned about. I joined IFAW for the launch of their new campaign against Puppy farms and then the Sheffield Lord Mayor at the launch of an innovative idea for helping young people who face homelessness in Sheffield. Find out more about Night Stop and how to volunteer as a driver or host home here. Also this week was the start of Community Consultation week, my office hosted a Macmillan Coffee Morning at my constituency office and I dropped into the White Lion to support their fundraising event for St Wilfrid's. As always I've also been out and about talking to local residents and acting on their concerns and any issues raised.
First week back to Parliament and it's back in full swing. Whilst the Government have had the break over the summer period it is becoming clear that they haven't used the time to plan a way forward for Brexit negotiations. We've already heard that the promised "points based" system for immigration from the EU has been abandoned by the Prime Minister and that the USA and Japan aren't going to make these negotiations easy. Equally, we’ve had absolutely no commitment from the Prime Minister that her negotiations will include the UK remaining in the Single Market. This truly is an unpredictable time in politics and its clear that the Government does not hold the answers some of its members promised. On Monday I arranged a visit for a group of constituents, who joined me down in Parliament for the first day back after summer recess and for a tour of Parliament. In the first session, I challenged the new Home Secretary over the worrying reports that the Syrian government has been targeting hospitals and medical facilities in the conflict in Syria; this is obviously exceedingly concerning behaviour from a government that seems not to care who is caught up in this conflict and I urged her to work with colleagues across Government to put pressure on Syria to immediately comply with international law. This surely will lead to more people seeking refuge from this dreadful conflict. The Government should be doing more to condemn these illegal and and deadly actions. The Finance Bill has reached report phase and was being debated in the house and I was pleased to support two Ten minute rule bills this week, the first put forward by a Tory MP who is trying to provide bereavement leave for parents who have lost children and the second by a Labour colleague who is attempting to protect workers’ rights that are currently only provided through European law. To round off the week in Parliament I attended the Heat Hero Awards where Shelly Davis of the South Yorkshire Energy Centre received an award and I’ll be participating in Business Questions tomorrow. Back in Sheffield tomorrow, I’m meeting with the Sheffield City Council Chief Licensing Officer about Taxi licensing and with the Sheffield Chamber of Commerce. I’ll also be dropping in on the Carers Café and at the weekend I will be going to the Heritage open day at Herding’s Community and Heritage Centre.
This week we have the State Opening of Parliament, and the Queen's speech. This is the main ceremonial event that takes place in Westminster. The Queens’s speech will be setting out the Government's legislative plan for the coming year, which will see more privatisation and further attacks on our democracy. I will be participating in the debate that will follow. I will be speaking at an event with the Democracy Club who are keen that information is digitally available about our democracy, such as information on election candidates, polling stations etc. I will be attending Brathay Apprentice Challenge 2016 event in support of a team of Sheffield apprentices from Sheffield City Councils housing team, they will announce the finalists at this event. On Thursday night I am taking part in Sheffield’s Festival of Debate on Devolution, I will join panellists from across Sheffield City Region to debate devolution and the so called “Northern Powerhouse”. This is likely to be a heated discussion so come along if you want to join in the debate. I will be joining volunteers and workers from S4C on a Friendly visit, which is a great way to challenge social isolation and just one of the things S4C do in the local area. Then Friday I will be hosting afternoon tea at my constituency office in support of S4C, join us for a cuppa from 1.30- 3pm at 63 Chesterfield Road, S8 ORL. Also this week I will be dropping into Jordanthorpe Library Open Day, speaking at One Sheffield Many Cultures and meeting with Bite the Ballot.
This week in Parliament we have BIS questions, and we'll be using the session to keep up the pressure on Ministers around the decision to close the policy making office in Sheffield. The Housing and Planning Bill is coming before the House again after being amended heavily in the House of Lords. Amendments have included completely striking out the proposed selling-off of high value council homes and the proposed ending of lifelong council tenancies. A few weeks ago we were lucky enough to have John Healey MP, the Shadow Housing Minister visit the constituency to talk about housing and it is clear that this Government has got this Bill badly wrong, as it does nothing to address the housing crisis we are facing. This controversial Bill started as an attack on affordable homes, whether private, council or owned by housing associations. The Bill was intending to see thousands of social homes sold off and not be replaced. It's come under heavy scrutiny by the Public Accounts Committee as extending right to buy to housing associations has not been fully costed or assessed for financial implications. There is no one that could claim we are not in the middle of a housing crisis and instead of bringing forward measures to ease this - like tackling rip-off landlords and letting fees, a real problem for many people - they've simply handed powers to central government and completely bypassed local planning processes. What's more, their definition of 'affordable' in Sheffield extends to starter homes worth up to £250,000. On Thursday we have local elections and Police and Crime Commissioner elections in Sheffield-don’t forget to go out and vote.
At the start of the week the Government blocked an amendment to the Immigration Bill that was added as it went before the House of Lords by the Labour peer Lord Dubs. I voted for this amendment but unfortunately, though not surprisingly, this was defeated by the Government. This would have allowed 3000 unaccompanied child refugees in Europe to come to the UK. It is shameful and despicable that the Tories would prevent 3,000 extraordinarily vulnerable children currently on the European continent and who are at risk from trafficking, abuse and disease from having a safe place to stay here in the UK. This week the Trade Union Bill is coming back through Parliament, this ridiculous Bill has been heavily amended by the Lords to remove some of the worst aspects, including a Government step-down on ending “check-off” and amendments to the Political fund , electronic balloting and facility-time coming before the House. As a former Shop Steward, I know how vital good industrial relations are for a workplace, these vicious attacks on trade unions do not recognise current industrial relations and in fact seem to aim to polarise the workplace. The introduction in this Bill of the use of agency workers to break strikes is very troubling - as the most fundamental right to remove one’s labour is diminished. I will continue along with Labour Colleagues to oppose this Bill in its entirety and also support the amendments that aim to resolve the most difficult parts of this Bill. Last week I spoke at the launch of Sheffield’s Teenage Market a great initiative which hopes to showcase Sheffield’s young performers and entrepreneurs , If you are 12-29 or know anyone who would be interested in taking part find out full details and how to apply here: http://theteenagemarket.co.uk/market/ttmarket-158397/ I also recently met with the Sheffield Churches Council for Community Care and agreed to host a afternoon tea with them at my office, this has been arranged for the afternoon of May 20th. Please drop in for a cuppa and a cake and to find out more about the work of SCCCC.
After recess parliament is back in full swing. My fellow Sheffield MP Angela Smith secured an adjournment debate on the key issue of road and rail links between Sheffield an Manchester, this is an important debate as it highlights the deep unfairness in infrastructure spending and the difficulties that presents to transport between two of the most vital cities in the North, making these connections faster and easier for commuters and businesses is vital for the Northern Revival. We also had the Finance Bill coming before the house as the Government has faced embarrassment recently over tax avoidance with the release of the panama leaks, showing the extent of tax avoidance. I will continue to ask questions on why HMRC remains understaffed and underfunded to take on tax avoidance seriously. As some of you will know I have been challenging the government on their proposed Pubs Code which was debated following the controversial appointment of Paul Newby as the Pubs Code Adjudicator. Many other colleagues and I have deep concerns about this appointment, and whether Mr Newby has a conflict of interest having been the director of Fleurets, a surveyor prominent in the Pubs Industry. The Pub Code aims to regulate the industry and it is clear that this post needs to be filled by someone with more independence. How can he be trusted when there is clearly a conflict of interest? During the debate the Minister refused to see that there is an issue with this appointment. In the constituency, following the serious incidents last week in Gleadless Valley Local Police and Crime Commissioner Alan Billings, local councillors and myself, went on walkabout and spoke to residents about any concerns they may have following these incidents. We also spoke with the manager of the Co-op where several police officers were injured. It was great to see the Coop is open and serving the community again following the incident. If anyone witnessed or were involved in the incident last week there are services available in Sheffield which offer practical and emotional support to those affected by crime. Please do contact my office on 0114 250 8113 and we will be happy to direct you to the relevant service. I'll also be meeting with Stradbroke Primary School and attending a meeting to organise the launch of a Teenage Market in Sheffield.
This week I and my office hosted a Fairtrade breakfast as part of Fairtrade Fortnight - providing free cups of Fairtrade tea, coffee, fruit and homemade breakfast bakes to help raise awareness about this important campaign. It was really well attended, thanks everyone who dropped by and for their donations. In Parliament this week, we had another debate on the UK Steel Industry – an issue of vital importance to our economy. This government has not adequately stepped in to protect British steel and instead has sat idly by whilst cheap Chinese steel has been dumped on the UK market. This has had a big impact on the industry and with job losses having been announced by several steel firms, including in Sheffield, the Government needs to act. We want to see British steel used in government-funded projects and protections to the industry to be implemented. Today I attended a PCS protest on the Sheffield closure of HMRC, an issue I will continue to raise. We also have Defence, Business and Treasury Questions and a backbench debate on youth violence. Back in Sheffield I will be meeting Keepmoat about issues with a local housing development and the Chief Executive of South Yorkshire Housing Association and Neville Martin, from the Federation of Small Businesses. I will also be dropping in to Newfield Secondary School to meet the new Co-headteachers. I will also be holding my regular advice surgery.
Last week I dropped in to Terminus café for a coffee morning to speak to local residents. This is a wonderful, local volunteer-run coffee shop, charity shop and community function. It was a particular privilege to sing happy birthday to this chap (on the right) who returned from WW2 in 1945 having been a German PoW. This week I joined Lowedges Community Centre for lunch. Yet another wonderful volunteer-run organisation in our community that puts on activities from crafting to teaching English as a second language to toddler groups to Zumba! If you're in the area, pop in on a Monday for their excellent cafe. I also went along to the exhibition at the Union Street pop up cafe which every Tuesday is run by LGBT Sheffield. Today they're hosting local artists including Greg Harris and Mark Harvey. This is a really impressive social enterprise and a really vital service to local LGBT people. I will be attending the Tech Future Girls annual Parliamentary showcase, which will be celebrating the skills from students aged 9-14 who are involved in computer clubs and coding schemes at their and schools to demonstrate their skills. On Wednesday, I will join my fellow Sheffield MPs in a debate fighting against the closure of the BIS centre in Sheffield, Paul Blomfield MP has uncovered that there is no business case for the moving of 247 jobs out of Sheffield to London and we have also heard that when being told of the potential redundancies, workers were informed the decision was made because the “phones and internet don’t work properly”. You can sign the petition against this decision here: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/120406 I will also be attending the Regional Labour Party Conference in Sheffield and presenting an award at the Sheffield Police awards.
This week Parliament is in recess so I will be Sheffield all week, holding meetings and visiting lots of organisations. To start the week I will be calling in on a digital inclusion project at Jordanthorpe Library by “Drink wise, Age well.” Digital exclusion is a difficulty for many people. As more and more organisations put information, support services and applications solely online, developing these skills can be really important for those of us who have not had much experience with computers and smart phones. I will be interested to see how this project is running and working with local residents to develop skills. The Regional Director of FirstBus will be coming to meet with me so I can inform him of the impact that changes to bus services have had on residents locally. I have raised these problems with the National Directors last month and I intend to keep the pressure on First to improve services in our area. I will be joining the NSPCC at a Year 6 assembly at Woodseats Primary, an interactive assembly that aims to help raise awareness of the NSPCC Childline and for pupils to recognise signs of abuse and know where to go to get help. The NSPCC aim to do this with every primary school using volunteers to put on the sessions. I will be visiting the Girls group at Double Six youth club to see the great work they are doing and to present them with the Constituency Fund cheque which will be used for resources for this group. I will also be meeting with the British Red Cross, with the council, to discuss their Keeping People Well programme. I will be calling in to the Coffee morning at Terminus Café, a great community initiative, meeting the Chairman of Sheffield FC about bringing the club home to Olive Grove. Meeting the Chief Superintendent about delays in DBS checks, an issue I have raised in Parliament. And I will be visiting Gleadless Primary to have a tour with the head teacher and meet the pupils.