Fir things first: A route to truly sustainable biomass

The escalating trade war between the US and China threatens to sweep the UK up in its wake. In spiralling reprisals these competing global powers have produced long lists of products which could face import tariffs.

Being the world's largest exporter, one product the US will try to avoid duties on is wood pellets. The prime importer of this commodity is the UK, followed some way behind by Denmark, South Korea, and Belgium. Most of these pellets are then burnt in biomass power plants like the Drax power station in Yorkshire, not far from my constituency of Leeds North West.

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Seni’s law is a major step towards ensuring mental health patients are treated with care and compassion

Seni Lewis, 23, lived with his parents in Thornton Heath. He was fit, healthy and, having recently graduated from university, had a bright future ahead. His parents found him one Sunday morning in a very agitated state which they quickly recognised as mental ill health.

Deeply worried, Seni’s parents took him to the local hospital and he was later transferred to a mental health hospital. They stayed with him until the evening and then went home.   

After his parents left, Seni became very anxious and tried to leave. He resisted attempts by hospital staff to restrain him and they called the police. Eleven police officers took Seni into a seclusion unit with his arms handcuffed behind his head, his legs in shackles, and pinned him face-down on the floor until he suffered a heart attack and became unconscious. Shortly afterwards, Seni died.

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Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall are right – we need radical action to tackle childhood obesity

This August marks two years since the world’s first childhood obesity plan was published here in the UK. However, it did not receive the attention and celebration you would expect for a ground-breaking strategy. It was published in the middle of summer recess, during the Olympics and on A-level results day, and appeared to be missing some pages. However, it was later confirmed that this world-first strategy really was just 13 pages long.

The plan was the perfect opportunity to really tackle childhood obesity in this country. But with the change of prime ministers, many of the ground-breaking policies that were expected to be in the plan were edited out by Theresa May and her team, with one of her former officials been reported to have boasted about saving Tony the Tiger, the Frosties mascot. 

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Ministers must ban the sale of energy drinks to under-16s

There is currently a childhood diet and obesity epidemic in the UK. The government needs to act decisively and take tough action to tackle the growing problem. The soft drinks industry levy, or “sugar tax”, has been an important and welcome tool to help fight the problem.

However, with one in five children obese by the age of 11, there is still much to do. One way I believe the government could help tackle this problem is by prohibiting the sale of energy drinks to anyone under the age of 16. That is why I recently led a Westminster Hall debate on the subject, to set out the evidence.

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Carillion late payments, retentions and Project Bank Accounts

Up to 30,000 businesses are predicted to lose money as a result of the collapse of Carillion. According to the Electrical Contractors’ Association, £2 billion is owed to suppliers. Most if not all of that money will never be repaid because of the debts, which Carillion had racked up.

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This could be the last chance to save our vital community transport sector

Community transport – local, not-for-profit provision of transport for people who might otherwise be isolated – rarely comes under the spotlight. It encompasses a broad range of services, from lift-giving by volunteer car drivers, to dial-a-ride minibus services for disabled and elderly people, to local bus services that would otherwise not exist because they cannot survive on a commercial basis.

Members across the House know how essential these services are to local communities. Some constituents describe them as a lifeline. That’s why I was proud that the Transport Committee’s first report since I became chair focused on these vital, yet often overlooked, services and that on Thursday a debate will consider the government’s inadequate response.

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Our Hospitals Are Being Left Crumbling And Unsafe By Eight Years Of Tory Neglect

When people enter a hospital, the very least that they expect is a clean and safe environment, but under the Tories that can no longer be guaranteed. Already overstretched staff are having to work even harder to keep the show on the road, in deteriorating facilities that are falling apart at the seams.

The shocking decline that has occurred in many of our NHS hospitals and facilities did not occur by chance. It is a direct consequence of a decision made by the Health Secretary to divert funding allocated for buildings and maintenance in order to prop up day-to-day spending.

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This week has confirmed that the nasty party has never gone away

When Theresa May told a stunned Conservative Party conference in 2002 that some people called them “the nasty party” there was widespread horror, recrimination and an eight year struggle to detoxify the Tory brand. “Our base is too narrow, and so, occasionally are our sympathies”, she said. I agreed back then and agree now. In her other infamous words, “nothing has changed”.

The 2005 ‘are you thinking what we’re thinking’ dog-whistle campaign showed the party wasn't listening. Posters shouted ‘it's not racist to impose limits on immigration’ and asked ‘how would you feel if a bloke on early release attacked your daughter’. Only after a third election defeat in a row were attempts made to clean up the Tory image. In came trainer-wearing, husky-hugging David Cameron with a new tree logo and a dream of the big society.

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Melrose’s purchase of GKN demonstrates capitalism’s fundamental failing

So it is done. Teenager Melrose’s £8bn has bought it 260 years of British engineering excellence once they convinced GKN shareholders their short term ‘buy, improve, sell’ approach would add more value to their investment than the existing management. The perfectly rational and well informed market players have chosen the most economically optimal option which will grow their wealth and therefore that of the nation.  Move along, nothing to see here says Greg Clark. This is the way a free market works.

He is wrong. What we are actually witnessing is the death and burial of this Government’s short lived, callously neglected and brutally beaten  Industrial Strategy, at the tender age of 18 months.

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Time is up for hereditary peerages

Is it right that in the 21st century 92 people, of which 91 are men, still sit in Parliament to speak, vote and act simply on the basis of who their ancestors were?

Is it right that elections, when held for vacancies to those 92 positions, can involve as few as three voters choosing a member of parliament?

For the situation today is just that – 92 hereditary peers are still left in the House of Lords.

Should we allow that situation to continue or is it time for change? Quite simply it’s not sustainable.

House of Lords reform may not be at the forefront of public discord, but it continues to be an issue that generates a huge amount of debate in Parliament and for good reason. Every politician has an opinion, if not several, on what we should do with this aspect of our uncodified constitution. But it is seemingly impossible to secure agreement.

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