When I say Parliament is the most diverse organisation I’ve ever worked in, it surprises people: our representative body is not known for its representativeness. Then I explain I was a professional engineer before coming into politics and everything is clear – Parliament may still have a long way to go but it is still closer to representing our nation than science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).
According to the Women’s Engineering Society, women still make up only 11% of the UK’s engineering workforce – the lowest in Europe, and according to the Association for Black and Ethnic Minority (BAME) Engineering, BAME people make up only 6%, despite them accounting for 25% of graduates. This only touches the surface. It’s not only a gender and ethnicity issue, but one for all under-represented groups and STEM sectors.
A year ago, the Grenfell Tower fire shocked the nation. Today, we remember the 72 people who lost their lives as a result of that fire. We also remember our duty to do right by them and those who survive them. That means seeing that justice is done and those responsible are held to account. And it means taking all steps necessary so that a fire like Grenfell Tower can never happen again.
Directly after this national disaster, the Prime Minister pledged that Grenfell residents would have all the help and new homes they needed and that her government would “do whatever it takes to… keep our people safe”.
This week is Carers Week, where we all recognise the crucial role unpaid carers play in our society.
6.5million people in the UK are giving unpaid care to a family member or friend, three million of whom juggle paid work and care. Two million of them are aged over 65.
One of the great legacies of the last Labour government is the Freedom of Information Act, a piece of legislation that threw open the inner workings of the government and its agencies. Members of the public were empowered to uncover information that would otherwise have remained hidden, allowing greater scrutiny of the public bodies working on their behalf.
Since the Act came into effect 18 years ago there have been thousands of successful FOI requests, uncovering information that those in power may have preferred stayed hidden. Failures in the care system, misuse of stop and search, increased waiting times for child mental health treatment – all of these were uncovered using FOI.
Jeremy Hunt has considerably heightened expectations for the so called birthday present for the NHS later this month telling us to expect ‘significant’ investment.
We know the NHS is experiencing the biggest financial squeeze in its history and on current projections the Conservatives are breaking their manifesto promise for real terms head for head rises every year of the Parliament.
Our economy has been hollowed out. More families are in work but struggling to make ends meet as underemployment, job insecurity and low pay dominates the lives of too many. On top of that millions of people pay more of what little they have for basic goods and services.
Poverty premium means that people living in poverty or on a low income are often paying more for the same goods and services than people who are better-off financially. Research from the University of Bristol suggests that this could cost low income families on average £490 a year. Of course, averages can hide extremes. In its worst manifestations, poverty premium can cost some households over £1000 a year.
On Wednesday 13th June, I’ll be introducing a Ten Minute Rule Bill to Parliament with the aim of convincing the government to force producers to take responsibility for the packaging they produce. Known as the ‘polluter pays’ principle, it would mean that local authorities and taxpayers no longer have to foot the bill for increasingly expensive recycling and waste management, and the UK can lead the way in safeguarding our wildlife and oceans for our future generations.
Packaging pollution first came to my attention over ten years ago while working as a specialist adviser to Welsh ministers in the Welsh government. Back then, the impact that packaging and plastic pollution were having on our wildlife, natural resources and on climate change was becoming increasingly evident.
Theresa May has just faced yet another torrid period of Tory revolts over her Brexit strategy. David Davis was on the verge of resignation. Government MPs were publicly rejecting her customs backstop fudge. And Boris Johnson became so exasperated that he was telling his supporters that he wanted Donald Trump to take over the negotiations.
It is now clearer than ever that May will fail to deliver the Brexit deal that Britain needs. She cannot command the confidence of her cabinet, of her party, or of the country. Instead of negotiating for Britain, the prime minister is lurching from crisis to crisis, increasing the risk that the talks break down, and we crash out without an agreement. We cannot go on like this.
Next week, the Commons will vote on the amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill which have been made by the House of Lords. Most of these amendments are positive in that they reduce the damage caused by the Government’s cack-handed approach to Brexit.
There is, however, one amendment which ought not to be supported. This is the amendment which opens the possibility of Britain being a member of the European Economic Area (EEA), like Norway. Given that Norway is outside of the European Union but benefits from being part of most of the EU’s Single Market arrangements, the so-called Norway option might seem to hold an attraction for the UK.
It’s already been torn apart by economists and independence supporters. Now the renowned experts at the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) have had their say and confirmed that the SNP’s Growth Commission report offers further austerity. It’s time for Nicola Sturgeon to dump the discredited document in the shredder.
The First Minister is a master at the art of spin: she learned from her mentor Alex Salmond, who presented that magnificent work of fiction – the 2014 White Paper – to voters.