Letter from Parliament (October 2019)

Cancer Research tell me there are around 1,200 cancer cases each year in Rochdale with some 540 cancer deaths. The NHS target to diagnose 75% of cancers at an early stage by 2028 could save thousands of lives. But to do this, the NHS needs to invest in more staff to save lives and carry out and interpret diagnostic tests.

Half of us will get cancer in our lifetime and rising referrals and a growing population will increase pressure on cancer services. To achieve world-class outcomes for patients, the government must tackle preventable risk factors and address shortages in the cancer workforce.

Smoking is the largest preventable cause of cancer in England and in Rochdale. The Chancellor should provide sustainable funding for public health and introduce a levy on tobacco manufacturers’ profits, so the polluter pays.

Conference_Cancer Research

I was delighted to meet with Esther, a young deaf campaigner, and representatives from the National Deaf Children’s Society to discuss plans to help more deaf young people into work.

It’s inspiring to see Esther trying to help other young people who are deaf, become aware of the support deaf young people can get to make important decisions about their futures and move into work. It’s important that people are able to work together. It’s good for the people of Rochdale and for all people who face such barriers.

I’ve written to Justin Tomlinson MP, the Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work, to highlight their plan to help young deaf people’s access into work, which will help enable more deaf young people to make a successful transition from education to work, and to ask this can be implemented.

Esther and Tony Lloyd MP

I visited Washington in my role as Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary and met with Congressman Richard Neal to discuss Brexit and the Good Friday Agreement. Congress will block any UK–US trade deal unless there are protections for Northern Ireland. The US, like Labour, has a proud legacy of acting in the interests of Northern Ireland and will continue to do so.

With Congressman Richard Neal

Thomas Cook ceased trading in the early hours of 23 September 2019, leaving 150,000 customers abroad without a flight home and 9,000 employees without a job.

Despite the number of management failures at the company, Thomas Cook’s bosses still accepted their enormous bonuses and the government failed to avert this crisis and save the company from collapse by refusing to take an equity stake in the business.

I joined my Labour colleagues to meet with Thomas Cook employees and their trade union representatives as they handed in a petition to the government demanding answers about the company’s collapse.

The Conservatives continue to do nothing to improve how our insolvency arrangements deal with such exceptional and complex circumstances.

Thomas Cook

Labour’s plans to replace Universal Credit with a social security system will focus on alleviating and ending poverty, not driving people into it. That’s not good for families and not sensible for the taxpayer. In government, Labour will immediately end the worst aspects of Universal Credit, including suspending the punitive sanctions regime, which has been ineffective at supporting people back to work and has instead pushed people into poverty and reliance on foodbanks.

Universal Credit was meant to lift people out of poverty, simplify the social security system, and smooth the transition into work. Instead it is failing those who need help and has pushed many into debt and rent arrears. We will put an end to the benefit cap and create a social security system that treats people with dignity and respect in their time of need.

Scrapping Universal Credit

In Parliament, I attended a meeting with the All Parliamentary Party Group on Air Pollution, to discuss the Clean Air Act.

Leading doctors have joined me and other MPs, who called on the government to include a clean air bill in the Queen’s Speech in order to save thousands of lives cut short by pollution.

The Clean Air Act will confer a legal right to unpolluted air for everyone in the UK. The Times launched a Parliamentary manifesto which I support and includes plans for temporary traffic bans outside schools at drop-off and pick-up times, pollution monitors in every postcode, a ban on sales of new diesel and petrol cars from 2030 and a reversal of cuts to green car grants.

Clean Air Act

The Personal Independence Payment (PIP) assessment centre has been closed in Rochdale, without providing an alternative location.

This will have a severe impact on sick and disabled people who will have to travel outside the borough to attend assessments. PIP is the benefit which has replaced the Disability Living Allowance.

This can only add to the pervasive culture of mistrust which has increased claimant anxiety, and the miserable effect this has on people who are trying to access much needed support.

I have written to Thérèse Coffey MP, the Minister for Work and Pensions, to ask why the decision was made to close the assessment centre, and what steps she will take to ensure the service is reinstated in Rochdale.

I had a meeting with the Director of Midwifery for the Pennine Acute hospitals, and it was encouraging to hear that plans to establish a midwife-led birthing centre in Rochdale are well underway.

I was advised that they will pilot a ‘pop-up’ birthing centre at Rochdale Infirmary, which will be encouraging to expectant mothers as it will offer them a safe alternative to hospital birth in a more family-friendly environment closer to home. I look forward to developments.

In Parliament, I attended a drop-in session hosted by the WASPI (Women Against State Pension Inequality) campaign, those born mainly in the 50’s who are fighting against an unfair upward change in the age they can receive a pension. They are concerned that not all the women living in England who are affected by the changes to state pension age are entitled to a free bus pass.

The right to access a free bus pass is a small concession, given that these women born have lost tens of thousands of pounds in pension payments. The government should provide free bus passes to all women born in the 1950s who have reached the age at which they would have been entitled to a bus pass before the introduction of the Pensions Act 2011.

It’s a small step as part of a bigger campaign but it should be delivered.


I was delighted to meet the young pupils at Kentmere Academy where I toured the school, met with pupils and learned more about their Sunshine Day theme, ‘physical health and mental well-being’, which ensures pupils have the time to relax, exercise, be creative and spend time with their newfound friends.

Mental and physical wellbeing is the key to a happier, more productive sociable student who will have a greater understanding of how to work well with others and manage their time effectively.

11-10-2019 - Kentmere Academy.jpg

I met with Claire Lennon from Your Way, a young person’s community-led project on mental health which tackles the stigma around mental health.

I discussed with Claire how important it is that Parliament listens to young people’s voices and give young people a chance to tell their stories. Their sessions have been very successful, with up to 70 young people getting involved in different types of activities ranging from sports to the arts.

Young peoples mental health.png

The Britain Breathing project is the first of its kind and aims to better understand when the symptoms of seasonal allergies (such as hay fever) occur, what factors affect this and why seasonal allergies are on the rise.

With Professor Sheena Cruickshank of Manchester University, I discussed environmental factors such as air quality and pollution and how they can have an enormous impact on asthma and allergy sufferers.

The University of Manchester has developed a Britain Breathing app which lets researchers look at possible links between air quality data and health symptom data which helps understand why allergies and asthma are increasing.

To do this, they need to collect data from lots of people on when and where their seasonal allergies occur. This will allow them to create a big database that we can combine with other information such as pollen counts or pollution data to build a better understanding of allergies and their triggers.

All you need to do is download the Britain Breathing app to your phone (available on Android and iOS) and fill out a short questionnaire.  Then, whenever you experience allergy symptoms, log these in the app – it should take less than one minute.

The app can be downloaded here: http://britainbreathing.org/

Tony Lloyd - Sheena Cruickshank Lab 4of6.JPG

At the weekend, I visited the Turner Brothers Asbestos site again with councillors Rachel Massey and Kieran Heakin where we looked at the erosion on the banks of the River Spodden, which has seemingly revealed an outcrop of asbestos. I have raised this with the council to ensure the site is secured.

The current landowners of the site undertook an investigation between November 2016 and February 2017. The investigation assessed the ground quality at the site and looked at potential environmental issues, filling in the gaps in knowledge gained from previous investigations.

To date, the owners have not shared the results of this investigation.

I have raised this once more with government ministers, who have been slow to respond, to ensure pressure is put on the current land owners to make public their findings from the tests on ground soil to assure the public there is no danger, or to take remedial action where necessary.

Each year the Holy Trinity Youth Theatre Workshop put on a major production for families in Littleborough. I was delighted to watch their version of The Pirates of Penzance. It was a great performance from everybody involved, and it was great to be there to support our young people.

Pirates of Penzance.jpg

On Tuesday 29 October, I joined Jeremy Corbyn and Labour’s Shadow Cabinet to announce that we will back a General Election now we have received confirmation that a “No deal” Brexit is off the table.

This government has caused more of our children to be in poverty, more pensioners to be in poverty, and more people in work to be in poverty, more families to be without a home, and more people to sleep rough on our streets.

We want to have a General Election so that this country can get the government it deserves. Now it’s over to the people of our country to make their minds up and vote.

So do register to vote if you’re not already and make your democratic choice:

Letter from Parliament (October 2019) was first published on Rochdale Online on 1 November 2019..