Home

Latest Stories

Land_Registry_2016.jpg 

As you may be aware, I, along with Labour colleagues, have been campaigning to prevent the Government’s ill –thought out plan to privatise the land registry and so I really welcome the news that they have decided not to press ahead with it.

This plan would have had negative impacts on the vital service that the registry provides and led to potential job losses across the UK, including in Durham. This was a short sighted move by the Government to sell off a public asset to the highest bidder, instead of taking real measures to engage with the country’s housing crisis through a serious national building project.

Together with PCS union, we delivered a petition against this privatisation signed by over 250,000 people to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and I’m pleased that we were able to help make those voices heard.

This is the third time I have campaigned against Tory plans to privatise of the Land Registry, and I will continue to oppose any attempt at the privatisation of this service that the Government may bring forward in the future.

Government shelves Land Registry plans after pressure from Labour

  As you may be aware, I, along with Labour colleagues, have been campaigning to prevent the Government’s ill –thought out plan to privatise the land registry and so I...

I’m sure you all have heard that BHS went into administration on the 25th April after having been sold by Sir Philip Green in March 2015 for £1. Most stores have already closed, marking the end of its tenure as a well-known fixture of British high streets, including Durham. The jobs of the 11,000 employees of BHS have been lost and 20,000 current and future pensioners have been facing substantial cuts to their entitlements. Meanwhile, Sir Philip Green and many others involved in the decisions that, in my opinion, led to the failure of BHS seem to have been able to walk away freely.

 

I think that the failure of BHS can in part be attributed to bad business decisions and personal greed and those involved should face serious action for what they have done.

 

Over the years of Sir Philip’s ownership, it seems as though significantly more money left the company than was invested in it. Despite the pension deficit of £571m, Philip Green and his family reportedly collected £586m in dividends, rental payments and interest on loans during their 15 year ownership. As the pension deficit grew, there seems to have been limited efforts to resolve it. Personally, I think that the failure to make the contributions necessary to maintain the pension scheme means that Sir Philip and his directors now have the responsibility to fill the current pension gap.

 

BHS was sold to Dominic Chappell in March 2015. It appears that his team could offer no equity and had no means of raising funds on a long term basis. In my opinion, it seems obvious that he was a wholly unsuitable purchaser and that his shortcomings were overlooked during the sale. For this, I feel they should also be held accountable.

 

Sir Philip keeps insisting that other people are to blame and does not seem to be accepting responsibility for his actions. The tragedy of the whole situation is that it is the ordinary employees who are losing out. 

 

I want you all to know that I will be speaking out against the actions of the current and former owners of BHS and will be calling for further action to be taken against them. I also fully support my colleague Frank Field in his work as chair of the Department of Work & Pensions Committee.

 

If you have been affected by the situation, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me with your opinions and concerns.

 

 

 

My thoughts on BHS

I’m sure you all have heard that BHS went into administration on the 25th April after having been sold by Sir Philip Green in March 2015 for £1. Most stores...

The foreword to the Government’s White Paper on Educational Excellence Everywhere says that “Access to a great education is not a luxury but a right for everyone”, so it’s surprising that many of the proposals in the White Paper could be very detrimental to the quality of education that students receive.

One of the most significant areas of concern is the growing number of teachers who have no formal teaching qualification. In 2012, the Government removed the requirement for teachers in academies to have Qualified Teacher Status (QTS), meaning that the number of unqualified teachers has risen from 16,000 to over 20,000. Whilst having a Qualified Teacher Status doesn’t guarantee a great teacher, and someone could be a fantastic teacher without having gone through the formal qualification process, overall standards of teaching will be higher if we can guarantee that everyone has reached a basic level of training.

The White Paper is going to extend the previous reforms to teacher training and professional accreditation by scrapping QTS entirely, and replacing it with a new accreditation. However, the Government so far has failed to come up with any details whatsoever about this new method of accreditation would involve. What’s more, this new, unknown accreditation would still not be required in academy schools. Forcing trainee teachers to jump through ever more hoops in order to get accreditation simply doesn’t make sense when ever increasing numbers of schools don’t require it – in fact, making the accreditation more arduous might even deter some from working towards a qualified status as they know they can work without it in academy schools. It’s hard to see how an increase in unqualified teachers could raise standards in schools, and I really fear for the education of children, especially of those from deprived backgrounds, if these changes do go ahead.

It’s not just children who will be affected by the changes proposed in the Government’s White Paper. Headteachers are increasingly feeling the pressure of having to train staff, as the White Paper proposes a move of almost entirely school based teacher training, with some limited involvement from universities. At a time when funding to schools has been cut, and headteachers are stretching their resources ever more thinly, it’s unfair to place another burden on them in the form of teacher training. I’ve spoken to a number of headteachers from across the UK on this issue, and they are united in saying that having the responsibility for teacher training is an unwelcome burden which makes it harder to deliver the highest quality education for their students.

Furthermore, I do not think that the Government has fully thought through the implications of moving towards an entirely school based training system. Durham University is one of many universities around the country which provides exceptional and academically rigorous teacher training, based on up to date research. By moving to a school based system, I fear that the expertise found in universities like Durham would be lost, and would be replaced by a system where standards from school to school could vary considerably. Our priority should always be getting the best teaching for children in the UK. This White Paper’s proposals will drive standards down, not up, and could be really detrimental to the quality of education students receive. 

My concerns about changes to teacher training

The foreword to the Government’s White Paper on Educational Excellence Everywhere says that “Access to a great education is not a luxury but a right for everyone”, so it’s surprising...


View More

Press Releases

Roberta Blackman-Woods MP today paid tribute to the large number of WASPI campaigners who attended the Town Hall today to form a Durham branch of national WASPI campaign (Women Against State Pension Inequality).

 

WASPI_Sept_2016_2.jpg

Roberta said,

“WASPI is a great campaign that seeks to fight the injustice done to women born in the 1950s (on or after 6 April 1951) regarding the changes to their state pension age.

“The 1995 Conservative Government’s Pension Act included plans to increase women’s SPA (State Pension Age) to 65, the same as men’s.  I know that WASPI agrees with equalisation but I am pleased it does not agree with the unfair way the changes were implemented – with little/no personal notice of the implications of the 1995 and 2011 Pension Acts, with faster action than promised (2011 Pension Act), and no time to make alternative plans.  I know that many constituents’ Retirement plans have been shattered as a consequence of this.

 

“Roberta said, it’s important that as many people as possible back the aim of the campaign which is - to achieve fair transitional state pension arrangements for women born in the 1950’s (born on or after 6 April 1951). 

The MP continued,

“I am delighted that a branch of WASPI is to be set up in Durham and I look forward to working with them to develop a plan of action over the coming months.  I am very grateful to Mary, Maria and Sylvia for agreeing to coordinate the group.  In the meantime, I shall be writing to the Secretary of State of DWP, The Rt Hon Damien Green MP to ask that the Government put better transitional arrangements in place for this group of women.”

ENDS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Roberta backs WASPI women in Durham

Roberta Blackman-Woods MP today paid tribute to the large number of WASPI campaigners who attended the Town Hall today to form a Durham branch of national WASPI campaign (Women Against...

Roberta Blackman-Woods today visited the University Hospital of North Durham for the launch of a new awareness programme about Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD). 

The campaign is being launched on FASD day (9th September). This date has been chosen as the FASD Day as it is the 9th day of the 9th month, which represents the 9 months of pregnancy during which it is recommended that pregnant women avoid all alcohol.  

Robert met with Sue Jacques, Chief Executive of the Hospital Trust, and members of staff from the maternity unit to talk about the ‘My Baby’s Too Young to Drink’ campaign being launched by The FASD Trust. Incidences of FASD among children and new born babies have increased, and this campaign promotes the message that women should stop drinking alcohol completely during pregnancy.

Research carried out by the FASD trust shows that midwives and other health professionals can play a critical role in influencing the behaviour of women during their pregnancy. This new campaign provides midwives with resources to help boost awareness of FASD, and a support helpline. These resources help midwives to raise awareness of the risks of drinking alcohol both with pregnant women, and with women contemplating having a child.

Roberta said “It was a pleasure to visit the UNHD maternity unit and see how midwives and doctors are working with organisations like the FASD Trust to reduce the number of babies born with FASD. Children exposed to alcohol during pregnancy are at risk of a range of serious health problems, which can affect them throughout their lives. These health problems are all preventable and it’s essential we equip midwives with the resources to get the message across to pregnant women that drinking at any point in pregnancy can cause both mental and physical challenges for their child.”

Roberta backs campaign to raise awareness of drinking alcohol during pregnancy

Roberta Blackman-Woods today visited the University Hospital of North Durham for the launch of a new awareness programme about Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD). 

Yesterday, Roberta raised the future of BHS in the Prince Bishop’s Centre and its staff with Anna Soubry MP, Minister for Small Business, Industry and Enterprise.  

Across the country, the collapse of BHS will lead to the loss of 11,000 jobs; it will have an enormous impact on the workforce and for their families and Roberta wanted to ensure that the staff at BHS in Durham can be confident that they will be taken care of and that their pensions will be safe.

In the Chamber, Roberta said:

BHS was an anchor store in the Prince Bishops shopping centre in my constituency, and the staff who work there are really concerned about their future and that of their pensions.

There are wider issues, too, about the impact of closure on our high street. Can the Minister tell us what she is going to do to address my constituents’ concerns and to call to account previous owners and current owners and directors for any part they have played in the downfall of BHS?

Moving forward, Roberta will be liaising with stakeholders to see how she can best support staff through this transition along with meeting with colleagues in Parliament to make sure that any further discussions that need to be had about the role played by the former or present administration get under way quickly.

If you are one of Roberta's constituents and are a member of staff of BHS or affected by this situation, please do get in touch by email, letter or phone if you require any help or advice.  

Roberta question BIS Minister on BHS staff's future

Yesterday, Roberta raised the future of BHS in the Prince Bishop’s Centre and its staff with Anna Soubry MP, Minister for Small Business, Industry and Enterprise.   Across the country,...


View More

The Labour Party will place cookies on your computer to help us make this website better.

Please read this to review the updates about which cookies we use and what information we collect on our site.

To find out more about these cookies, see our privacy notice. Use of this site confirms your acceptance of these cookies.