On Monday evening I spoke in the Budget debate following the Chancellor's statement last Wednesday. The Budget does little to help the people of the City of Durham who have been squeezed by this government's economic policies and seen their pay fail to grow over successive years, and it fails to address the most pressing issues facing the UK as it moves forward. The full text of my speech is below:
The Chancellor spoke for more than an hour last Wednesday, but he did not mention several of the most pressing issues for my constituents. Particularly notable was the lack of any mention of additional money for social care, despite the Government’s saying in the general election that they would fix social care.
The Care Quality Commission has said the system is at “tipping point”, yet the Government did not allocate any more money to social care through the Budget. Funding an additional amount through council tax is simply not enough. Nor was there any mention of help for the many WASPI women in this country.
The theme of this debate is the UK and the world, which is apt, because the Chancellor was unable to hide how badly the British economy is doing, especially compared with the economies of our global competitors. The most recent OECD forecasts have UK GDP growth as the third lowest out of the 35 member nations. Our productivity is among the lowest, too, and that is stifling our economic growth. In recent years, productivity growth has underperformed every forecast made by the Office for National Statistics and the OBR, and last Wednesday the Chancellor was forced to admit that it has been flatlining for years. The Trades Union Congress put it really well when it said:
“Our workplaces are not fit for the future: UK productivity has flatlined for a decade, and we are ill-equipped to take advantage of new technological developments. Poor quality employment practices, weak enforcement of labour rights and low investment in training leave British companies lagging behind.”
We know what the Government should be doing to tackle the productivity crisis. They need to invest in skills and education, in technology and digital services, and in infrastructure right across the piece—everything from roads to ports to airports and housing. They also need to get companies to invest more in research and development. However, the Budget was weak on several of those issues. It is unclear whether the £20 million announced for further education colleges is new money and we do not know when they will get it.
We all know that apprenticeships are a great way to upskill the workforce, but the Government’s record on them is poor. Statistics from the Department for Education show that there has been a 60% drop in the number of people starting apprenticeships.
Little new money was announced in the Budget for transport and infrastructure, especially in our regions. Most of the money is still concentrated in London and the south-east. Although we do not want to take money away from those areas, we do want the Government to recognise the very real need for additional investment in infrastructure, particularly in the north-east, so that businesses can continue to grow.
We also know that the money that was announced for housing—£7 billion of new funding—is massively short of the £50 billion that the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government said was needed. This Budget continues the Government’s failed austerity policy and does nothing for my constituency.
On Monday evening I spoke in the Budget debate following the Chancellor's statement last Wednesday. The Budget does little to help the people of the City of Durham who have...
On Monday evening, I voted against the Government’s EU Withdrawal Bill, after earlier speaking in Parliament about why I would be doing so. The bill as presented is profoundly undemocratic, putting wide ranging powers directly in the hands of Ministers, away from proper Parliamentary oversight and scrutiny. It would place at risk many of the most important rights and protection that UK citizens enjoy, and that we have fought hard to secure over many years.
I am always mindful of the fact that my constituency, the City of Durham, voted last year to Remain in the European Union, although the Labour party is committed to respecting the result of the referendum and does not want to frustrate Brexit. This EU Withdrawal Bill however would be hugely damaging for our communities and the wider North East. The Bill makes no provisions to ensure that the UK remain part of the single market and customs union during any transition period, which North Eastern businesses have said is a high priority.
You can see the text of my speech below, or watch my speech on Parliament Live here. Sadly, the Conservatives were able to secure enough votes for the Bill at this stage, but I will continue to oppose this Governmental power grab at future stages in Parliament.
On Monday evening, I voted against the Government’s EU Withdrawal Bill, after earlier speaking in Parliament about why I would be doing so. The bill as presented is profoundly undemocratic,... Read more
During the Consideration of Amendments stage of the Higher Education and Research Bill, Roberta was able to make some final comments on the Bill.
As Parliament dissolves this week, the final stages of the Bill had to be resolved quickly in order to ensure that the Bill was not dropped entirely, so while there was not much time for a full debate to take place, Roberta was still able to challenge the Minister on aspects of the Bill before it concluded.
Roberta was a member of the Public Bill Committee on this Bill, and therefore was actively involved in scrutinising and amending this Bill whilst it progressed through the House of Commons. As she is currently the Chair of the All Party Parliamentary University Group, a former University lecture and also has a leading university within her constituency, she has a real understanding of how this legislation will affect students, staff and universities as a whole, and did what she could to ensure that this bill was not detrimental to our world-leading Higher Education sector.
Roberta took this opportunity to ask the Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation further questions about the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), particularly regarding how this framework will be reviewed in the future.
Later in the debate, she also pointed out that it would have been more reassuring had the Minister given clear indication that he would act on the outcome of any future review on the TEF, and “not simply ignore it” stating that this “could happen in the future.”
In addition, Roberta also challenged the Government on their replacement amendment on the issue of what defines a university. She called the Government’s proposed amendment “a watering down” of the amendment made in the House of Lords on this issue and suggested that this will need to be monitored in the future so that it “adequately protects university title.”
If you want more information about this debate, you can find a copy of the transcript here.
During the Consideration of Amendments stage of the Higher Education and Research Bill, Roberta was able to make some final comments on the Bill. As Parliament dissolves this week,...
Roberta recently spoke in a Westminster Hall debate on school funding in the North East of England.
Roberta highlighted the estimated cuts that would affect schools in her constituency.
Roberta recently spoke in a Westminster Hall debate on school funding in the North East of England. Roberta highlighted the estimated cuts that would affect schools in her constituency. ... Read more
Following the Ministerial Statement on Legislating for the UK’s Withdrawal from the European Union, Roberta took the opportunity to ask the Brexit Secretary, David Davis MP, about the future of businesses in the North East.
Focusing on the Secretary of State’s point that businesses can continue to operate knowing that the rules have not changed, Roberta asked him how he was going to ensure that businesses, such as Nissan and Hitachi, will still have opportunities to grow following our departure from the EU. Roberta also questioned him on how he would ensure that workers’ rights will be protected in the future.
To watch Roberta’s question and the response she was given, the video is available here.
Following the Ministerial Statement on Legislating for the UK’s Withdrawal from the European Union, Roberta took the opportunity to ask the Brexit Secretary, David Davis MP, about the future...
On the 24th February 2017, I spoke in the Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence (Ratification of Convention) Bill debate.
I would firstly like to congratulate Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP, on making such progress with this important and very necessary Bill. As Dr Whiteford stated: “Women may have secured equality before the law—de jure equality—but we are nowhere near achieving de facto equality, or equality in practice.”
The Istanbul Convention can provide a clear legal framework on women’s rights for other countries to adopt and therefore is vital in tackling violence against women and girls. The Bill also includes provisions for men, trans and non-binary people regardless of any other characteristic. I am proud of the then Labour Government for playing a significant role in the drafting of the Convention, which began in 2008.
Today, women still face a significant amount of inequality, with one in four women experiencing some form of domestic, sexual or psychological abuse during their lifetime and domestic abuse remains at endemic levels in the UK, with 20% of children in the UK have being exposed to domestic abuse.
I believe by ratifying this convention, it is a vital step forward in preventing and combating gender-based violence.
Finally, I want to pay special attention to all the brave woman who have faced any form of violence who shared their stories and experiences.
On the 24th February 2017, I spoke in the Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence (Ratification of Convention) Bill debate. I would firstly like to congratulate... Read more
During Justice Questions, Roberta stated that a recent inspection report showed that there is an increase in the number of prisoners who feel unsafe in HMP Durham. Calling attention to the fact that the number of staff working at the prison has gone down in recent years, she explained that 60% of prisoners now feel unsafe, compared with 37% in 2013.
She challenged Liz Truss, the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, on this issue of cuts to prison staff, asking what she is planning to do to improve prisoner safety without delay.
To see Roberta’s question in full, as well as the Secretary of State’s reply, you can find the video here.
During Justice Questions, Roberta stated that a recent inspection report showed that there is an increase in the number of prisoners who feel unsafe in HMP Durham. Calling attention...
Roberta questioned the Minister for Prisons on the issue of low morale amongst prison officers in the face of staff cuts, pointing out that prisons in her constituency had faced a serious fall in staff numbers.
Roberta asked the Minister what plans he has to make pay reflect the vital and dangerous work prison officers do and you can watch their exchange here.
Roberta questioned the Minister for Prisons on the issue of low morale amongst prison officers in the face of staff cuts, pointing out that prisons in her constituency had faced...
Today Roberta spoke in Labour's Opposition Day debate on prisons. This is an area that Roberta takes a great deal of interest in as there are 3 prisons in her constituency with a total population of over 2,000 prisoners and a significant number of staff.
Roberta focussed on the impact that the Government's cuts are having on prisoner and staff health and wellbeing- particularly the significant fall in the number of prison officers since 2010.
In her speech Roberta pointed to the need to tackle recidivism and the role that education and skills can play in that. Roberta also highlighted the importance of having a specific strategy for women prisoners and the impact that custodial sentences can have on families.
You can watch Roberta's contribution above or read it at https://hansard.parliament.uk/search/MemberContributions?memberId=1501&type=Spoken
Today Roberta spoke in Labour's Opposition Day debate on prisons. This is an area that Roberta takes a great deal of interest in as there are 3 prisons in her constituency with a...