This week in Parliament, Ian has been representing Wansbeck in Westminster, championing constituents inside and outside of the debate chamber. Events in Westminster have been in the headlines, and Ian and the Labour Party have been standing up for ordinary people in Wansbeck and beyond.
Before I do anything else in this Parliamentary Update, I want to urge everyone reading this to vote in the Aviva Community Fund. There are some fantastic projects in Wansbeck that deserve our support; and because you get 10 votes, you can support many of them. You can register here: https://community-fund.aviva.co.uk/voting/user/login
This week, I was pleased to back two Opposition Day motions, on Community Pharmacies and Police Officer Safety. The services offered by Pharmacies are particularly important to the elderly, disabled and those with long term illness. The support they provide to overstretched GP surgeries and hospitals is crucial. Despite this, the Government has announced it will be pushing ahead with huge cuts to community pharmacy budgets. The cuts represent a 12% reduction on current funding levels for the rest of the 2015-16 financial year and a 7% cut next year.
Earlier this year, a government minister admitted that across the country as a result of these cuts, 3,000 community pharmacies could close as a result. For Wansbeck this will result in 6 pharmacies at risk of closure. Justice for communities is at the heart of why I entered politics, and I can guarantee that I and the Labour Party will continue to fight to save our community pharmacies.
The other motion, on Police Officer Safety, called on the government to issue statutory guidelines on minimum sentencing for those found guilty of assaulting a police officer. Since 2010, the country has lost 1 in 7 police officers, almost 20,000. As such, the motion also called on the government to guarantee that funding and numbers would not fall further. Unfortunately, both opposition day motions were defeated.
My first Cabinet Office questions was on Wednesday. I took the opportunity to ask the government about the potential implications of their plans to abolish the time limit on UK citizens abroad retaining their voting rights. It is a genuine concern that this could inadvertently lead to huge amounts of money from non-UK taxpayers flooding into our political system. Unfortunately, the government response didn’t address my question and I have written to the minister asking for clarification. A full recording can be found at: http://parliamentlive.tv/event/index/ea02bdf2-6876-4fd1-bf87-4368aaf21d85?in=11:41:31
On Thursday and Friday, I have been in Wansbeck constituency. On Thursday, I was delighted to join members of Newcastle band Lindisfarne in opening a new MRI scanner at Wansbeck Hospital. The state of the art scanner and refurbished facility mean that the potentially daunting prospect of a scan will be as comforting as possible.
On Friday, I was delighted to join interested parties for a progress update on bringing a Challenger Centre to Northumberland College’s Ashington Campus to support STEM education. Excellence in STEM subjects is crucial in securing secure, well paid jobs of the future and anything that gets students in Wansbeck greater opportunities in life deserves our full support as a community. I was also privileged to attend a joke competition at NCEA’s James Knott campus. It was fantastic to see so many talented children given the confidence and the platform to tell a joke. It’s a daunting experience to many kids, and I’d like to applaud the school for taking such an initiative.
It's also the Big Energy Saving Week, a joint event run by Citizens Advice , the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Energy Saving Trust which aims to inform people about potential energy savings in the run up to winter. Citizens Advice have developed a really useful tool to compare energy prices, available here: https://energycompare.citizensadvice.org.uk/%20
Are you a constituent experiencing difficulty or do you have a cause you wish to raise? You can email firstname.lastname@example.org, call 01670852494 or write to Ian Lavery MP, 7 Esther Court, Wansbeck Business Park, Ashington, NE63 8QZ