Last week, the focus was the debate on whether to intervene in Syria. This rightly took all of everyone’s energy and attention. After a very complex and passionate debate I voted against the intervention.
When one issue dominates the agenda, others are put on the backburner and do not get the attention they might deserve, but these issues don’t just disappear. As we move into another week I thought this would be a good time to provide an overview of my recent work in some of these other areas.
The Autumn Statement/Spending Review announcements saw an embarrassing u-turn by the Chancellor over his policy to reduce tax credits for low paid workers. The policy was clearly unfair and rightly received a huge backlash from the moment he announced it back in July and yet he dug his heels in and spent all summer saying that he was going to do it anyway.
I’m very pleased that he eventually gave in to the pressure and cancelled the changes. Although it is worrying that he still intends to cut £12bn from the welfare budget and we still have no solid details about when and how this will happen. For a man who talks about a long-term economic plan so much it is worrying to see the Chancellor apparently making things up as he goes along just to suit his own agenda.
The other major change in the Autumn Statement was the decision to cancel cuts to the police. Police numbers have fallen dramatically after several years of cuts. I blogged several months ago over my concerns about the future of policing if even more cuts were to come. The attacks on Paris brought fresh pressure on the Government to cancel the next wave of cuts, and I am glad that they have, but it shouldn’t take a terror attack to make the Government take the security of our citizens seriously. I hope that this means that the future of community policing is now secure but I think we will have to be vigilant to ensure that the Government do not try to reduce officer numbers again in the future once the national mood is more relaxed.
Locally we finally received some good news on the railway. Not only is the full service due to return next week, following the completion of the Farnworth tunnel project, but Northern Rail are finally going to deliver the extra carriages that we have been asking for over the last two years.
I haven’t had many opportunities to speak in Parliament recently as I’ve often been in the Chair for debates or serving on the High Speed Rail select committee, however I have still been holding Ministers to account through written questions. Just recently I have received answers on a number of topics, including transport spending in Greater Manchester, animal welfare, pensions and the failures by Arriva to provide an adequate non-emergency ambulance service.
Finally, I have co-sponsored an Early Day Motion to bring attention to the Government’s lack of action on home energy efficiency. Low income families often find themselves in the least energy efficient homes, driving up bills for those who can least afford it. Investing in energy efficiency is the best way to keep bills down and to lift people out of fuel poverty. The Conservatives have a poor record in this area and have repeatedly undermined the support that is available, restricting it to smaller and smaller groups and making the whole system so complex that those who would benefit struggle to engage with it.
Investing to improve energy efficiency in older homes and in low income areas would to help reduce fuel poverty, tackle climate change and improve economic growth through the development of more skilled employment to opportunities. I hope that a wide range of MPs will support the motion. You can see which ones have here.