After a recent diagnosis, my doctors have prescribed a course of chemotherapy for me. This is mainly delivered as a day patient to hospital and not very intense. This began a little before Christmas and will continue over the next couple of months. However, both the condition I have and the underlying treatment mean that my immune system is compromised during this time and a little beyond. In other words, I am exposed to a higher risk of catching any infection. As a result, doctors are telling me to socially isolate and avoid meetings. I shall not be attending Parliament during this treatment period nor meeting people in my Rochdale constituency or elsewhere, but I shall hold advice surgeries as usual though by way of zoom or telephone, and constituents who want to use this facility are welcome to do so. I shall continue to work to hold Ministers to account through the written questions I table, the letters I write as well as engaging with other agencies on behalf of my constituents. It’s obviously my ambition to get back to normal both for me as an individual and as a Member of Parliament as soon as possible but in the meantime, I shall concentrate on getting better.
I have been working with the Manchester Evening News and other organisations on the campaign to introduce Awaab’s Law following the death of Awaab Ishak and I have been working on an amendment to the Social Housing (Regulations) Bill to incorporate this into law.
The campaign has taken an important step forward as Ministers have recently announced a review of landlord guidance on the health risks of damp and mould. Following discussions between the representatives of Awaab’s family and Michael Gove, he is understood to be about to publish a policy statement on approaches to tackling serious hazards (including damp and mould) in the social rented sector. We don’t know yet exactly the timeframes of when this will be implemented, so that’s something to keep an eye on. Guidance is one thing, but accountability is key in preventing another tragedy like the death of Awaab.
One element missing from Michael Gove’s statement is the call for tenants to be given priority to move if there is a health hazard in their home due to damp or mould. Given the crippling housing shortage that Rochdale and other local authorities face across the country, this may be the trickiest of the demands outlined in the campaign. But nevertheless, this is something we can press the government on and ensure that MPs, on both sides of the house, rally behind these amendments.
Separate to this, I also wrote a Parliamentary motion in response to the Regulator of Social Housing following its investigation into RBH and the resignation of the Board’s Chair, calling on RBH to ensure there’s local authority representatives on a reconstituted board. You can read the motion in full here.
In the end, Awaab should never have died, and we must make sure something like this never happens again.
Government’s Strikes Bill
On Monday there was a vote on the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill which gave Ministers the power create, impose and enforce minimum service levels across sectors including health, fire and rescue services, education and transport. Labour voted against this unworkable and impractical Bill.
I’ve recently seen at first hand and as a patient, the dedicated work of our hospital staff, not just nurses and doctors but across the range from those who clean, the porters and all those who keep our hospitals running. How this government has managed to lose faith with all of these has taken years of underinvestment, of treating people badly and letting their pay erode year after year. The story’s the same for teachers in our schools, care workers, postal workers, rail workers and public service workers generally.
It’s obvious to almost everyone that the answer begins by sitting down to negotiate a reasonable pay deal for people who’ve already seen their household income dropping and who are living as we all are with governments’ failure to check inflation. Prime Minister Sunak and his colleagues don’t see it that way. They think they can tough it out and drive people to work but in reality, that doesn’t resolve the problem that our public services and the infrastructure that supports them have been underfunded for a decade and more.
This was made worse by Grant Shapps, who as Transport Secretary allowed the terrible deterioration in trans Pennine services affecting Rochdale directly, and whose government extended the incompetent Avanti’s franchise to run the Manchester to London service and in neither case were minimum standards enforced even though they were in the contract.
So there we have it, no minimum standards for companies who fail the public time and time again but minimum standards to get the government out of a hole of their own making around the massively unfair erosion of pay. Labour in government will repeal this law, and in power we will end the Tories’ strikes chaos with a new partnership of cooperation between trade unions, employers and the government, meaning issues are resolved before strikes.
Rochdale households £2,271 worse off — Labour will change this
New analysis revealed the Tories’ wholesale failure to grow the economy and to level up Britain, with figures showing that in Rochdale, real wages are down by 7.4%, leaving people £2,271 a year worse off than they were in 2010. Across the country as a whole, real wages are down by an average of 5%.
These figures don’t just underline a lack of growth under the Tories, they show the complete failure over 12 years to build an economy that actually works in the interests of people in Rochdale and beyond. Married with the billions upon billions of taxpayer money that has been wasted on undelivered projects, crony contracts, unsafe PPE and Tory vanity projects, it shows just what irresponsible stewards of the economy the Conservatives are. Labour will stabilise our economy, and we will get it growing with our Green Prosperity Plan and our active partnership with employees and British businesses. Read more here.
Hopes for restoring Rochdale’s lost rail link with Bury has been pushed to the back of the Government’s queue
The government has pulled their support on restoring the Bury–Heywood–Rochdale rail line. Their announcement is a kick in the teeth for Rochdale and Greater Manchester. Tram and rail services from Rochdale to Manchester provide transport to the city centre but it doesn’t provide the kind of connections we need to get around the city region, and in particular, from Rochdale and Heywood to Bury.
Whilst there are future plans for tram-train services between Oldham, Rochdale, Heywood and Bury, these are way down the line and Transport for Greater Manchester are still looking at ways on how to fund this which will only be made more difficult with the withdrawal of this support. The Conservatives talk big on investing in economic growth and levelling up our communities, but when it comes to taking decisive action they’re nowhere to be seen. At the end of the day, it’s businesses and communities across Rochdale, and Heywood to Bury, which will lose out, not to mention the now-missed opportunities in reducing carbon emissions. The government must look at this decision again.
Scrap private agencies and fund NHS doctors and nurses
Recent figures have revealed that the Northern Care Alliance NHS Foundation Trust shelled out £21,339,863 on doctors from private agencies to plug gaps in its workforce. As much as £5,234 on a single doctor’s shift last year meant money that could have been spent elsewhere instead went towards inflated agency fees.
Desperate hospitals are forced to pay rip-off fees to agencies because the Conservatives have failed to train enough doctors and nurses over the past 12 years. While taxpayers are paying over the odds on agency staff, the government has cut medical school places, turning away thousands of straight-A students in England. A Labour government will tackle the root cause of the crisis in the NHS by training 7,500 more doctors and 10,000 more nurses a year, paid for by abolishing the non-dom tax status. We need doctors and nurses, not non-doms. Read more here and watch my interview with That’s TV News.
‘Revive the NHS’ pledge
Every part of the NHS is at breaking point but there are short-term steps the government can and must take to help safeguard patients and staff this winter. I signed a five-point pledge calling on the government to:
1) Absorb any additional energy costs for NHS workplaces.
2) Enhance mental health support for NHS staff.
3) Remove locum caps and ringfence a new budget for NHS locum staff.
4) Address administrative problems in the Home Office for healthcare workers on visas.
5) Reform NHS pension tax regulations which are pushing doctors out of the workforce.
Read more about the pledge here.
Act now in combating toxic air pollution
I’m calling on the government to act now to reduce levels of toxic air pollution. If you ask anyone if people should have the right to breathe clean air, I doubt very much they would say ‘no’. Yet air pollution continues to be the largest environmental risk to public health, after climate change. The UK made a commitment to a landmark UN resolution which recognised the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment as a human right. Current UK law doesn’t adequately allow for this and tragically 40,000 people a year in our country lose their lives early as a result, whilst many others suffer from chronic conditions and reduced life expectancy.
There are things the government could be doing to tackle this, such as increasing investment in energy efficiency and renewable energy to reduce harmful emissions. This would also reduce the cost of living for households in Rochdale and beyond. The government could also support the Clean Air Bill, which is going through Parliament and has wide cross-party support. This would ensure the human right to breathe clean air is put in place, and in turn, prevent deaths and health complications whilst protecting the environment and mitigating climate change. We’re running out of time on this. The government must act now. Read more here.
24/7 support line for rape and sexual abuse victims
A helpline has been launched which offers free and confidential emotional support to all victims and survivors of rape and sexual abuse over the age of 16, which I would encourage everyone to share with their contacts. The 24/7 Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Line is available via telephone on: 0808 500 2222 and online at: 247sexualabusesupport.org.uk
It’s vital that survivors of rape or sexual abuse are listened to, believed and supported to make their own choices about what they would like to do next. The launch of this helpline ensures that access to help at any time of the day or night means no one will be left without somewhere to turn. Having this support line in place will help ensure there is easier access to support.
Recognition of the Holodomor as a genocide
I tabled a Parliamentary motion calling on the UK government to promote further awareness of the Holodomor and condemn any attempt to deny or distort this historical truth as being anything less than genocide. The Holodomor was one of the vile acts of atrocities against millions of men, women and children who literally starved to death. Few now doubt this was anything other than a deliberate act by Stalin. The strong Ukrainian community in Rochdale gathers each year to remember these events, but from all backgrounds we should remember so that genocide can never be accepted. You can read the motion in full here.
The UK is to send Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine to bolster the country’s war effort, and I fully support this. Modern tanks are crucial to Ukraine’s efforts to win its battle against Putin’s aggression but Ministers must move beyond ad hoc announcements about donating weapons and laying out a long-term strategy for military, economic and diplomatic assistance through 2023 and beyond. The first anniversary of Russia’s invasion approaches, and the UK government must make sure that Ukrainians and Mr Putin know that Britain will stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes.
The severe drought in Ethiopia has left 9.9 million people facing hunger and 24 million in need of humanitarian assistance, and 2.2 million children in Ethiopia are acutely malnourished. Climate change undoubtedly plays a part in the scale and severity of this crisis and the UN has listed Ethiopia in the top five countries in need of humanitarian aid. I tabled an Early Day Motion in Parliament calling on the government to do all it can to ensure sufficient humanitarian aid reaches those who need it, supports international and non-governmental humanitarian organisations operating in Ethiopia and restores its commitment to spending 0.7 per cent of GNI on international aid. You can read the motion here.
Palestinians living in Masafer Yatta
The Israeli High Court of Justice’s decision to approve the eviction of Palestinians living in the Masafer Yatta region of the occupied West Bank to make room for Israeli military training is concerning. Demolitions and confiscations occurring in the occupied West Bank contravene international humanitarian law and undermine social stability and security, and those involved stand to lose their homes, belongings, access to water, livelihoods, primary health facilities and schools. I tabled a Parliamentary motion calling on the government to press the Israeli authorities to halt all forcible evictions and demolitions in the occupied West Bank. Read more here.