This week in Parliament, Kate has been representing Blackburn in Parliament, championing constituents inside and outside of the debate chamber. Events in Westminster have been in the headlines, and Kate and the Labour Party have been standing up for ordinary people.
In light of the attack on Westminster last week, I did not provide a parliamentary update as I did not feel that it was appropriate to do so at the time. One week on, Parliament has continued to function as it should, showing that anti-democratic attacks will never shake our democracy or the desire of MPs to serve their constituents and articulate their views on the future direction of Britain.
Undoubtedly, the political highlight of the week was the invocation of Article 50. As a committed representative of Blackburn, I am determined to ensure that leaving the EU does not cost Blackburn jobs or investment. My Labour colleague Keir Starmer, our Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the EU has laid out six tests for any Brexit deal. You can read more about the tests here. I fully support Keir and our shadow team in this and will hold the government to account on behalf of the people of Blackburn.
Parliamentary procedure can often be frustrating, and limits on Parliamentary time can be huge. Sometimes, this means that even those who have been selected to ask a question to a department are unable to put the question verbally to the minster. I was disappointed that I was unable to ask the Foreign Office about freedom of movement in Gaza, and have written a short post about the question and why I felt it was important here.
Many constituents have contacted me in the past few months asking that I publicly support the Children’s Society ‘Breathing Space’ campaign. I was delighted to take this opportunity, and you can view my speech here. However, while the scheme has my full support and is undoubtedly a worthy one, I do not feel it alone is enough to tackle the ongoing cost of living crisis.
As an MP, I hear from people who have seen a council tax debt increased by a huge amount due to bailiffs and court costs. I know that the rising prices of food and the increased insecurity in work mean that many families struggle with irregular earnings. The awful record of the Conservatives in government, and their one-time Lib Dem cheerleaders, on in-work poverty is a matter of record. Cuts to tax credits, ballooning zero-hours contracts and a cycle of savage local government cuts have driven many people to experience lower standards of living and lower standards of public services.
A scheme to ensure that families in problem debt are given a ‘breathing space’ is absolutely the right thing to do. However, it should form part of a package of measures to end the cycle of insecurity and instability that affects so many low income families, both in Blackburn and across the country.
On Thursday morning, just before Parliament went into recess over Easter, I asked the Transport Department about road safety. You can watch the full exchange here. I was told that the government is not considering reinstating a national road safety strategy. Between September 2015 and September 2016 there was a 2% increase in deaths on roads, and a 6% increase in casualties. The rate of casualties in Blackburn was 49% higher than the national average and, shockingly, child casualties are 102% higher than the national average rate. Between 2010 and 2015, the number of dedicated road traffic police officers in England and Wales, outside the Met, has fallen by over a quarter from 5,338 to 3,901. In Lancashire, on the 31 March 2010, there were 171 specialist road policing officers in Lancashire. The figure for March 2015 was 112. While there has been changes in methodology that mean that this is not an exact comparison, I and the Labour Party see a link between reduced capacity to enforce road laws and the annual increases in road deaths and serious casualties
Are you a constituent experiencing difficulty or do you have a cause you wish to raise? You can email firstname.lastname@example.org, call 0125452317 or write to Kate Hollern, Richmond Chambers, Richmond Terrace, Blackburn, BB1 7AS