Jeff Smith MP says Queen’s Speech “a missed opportunity”

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Manchester Withington MP Jeff Smith responded to the Queen’s Speech in parliament this week, highlighting the effects of local Government cuts on Manchester, the Government’s failure to support the NHS and welcoming the prospect of a Buses Bill in this parliament.

Outlining the context for last week’s Queen’s Speech, Jeff Smith said:

Manchester City Council has seen more than £350m worth of cuts over the past six years. My constituents have suffered from the bedroom tax, from unfair sanctions and from cuts to the benefits that help them to get by in life.

So for many in South Manchester, it will be hard to accept the contention that the Queen’s Speech has quality of life concerns at its core when so many of the local services that make up the fabric of our communities are being stripped away.’

Commenting on the lack of legislation focused on improving the NHS, Jeff Smith said:

‘Our NHS is in a crisis of rising demand for services paired with massive financial deficits in NHS trusts.

My constituency of Manchester Withington is home for many of the 5,000+ medical and healthcare students in Manchester universities.  With the attack on student nurse bursaries, the Government is asking them to work and study for long hours with no help.’

Welcoming the Government’s announcement to move forward with a Buses Bill, Jeff Smith said:

“Finally there is the prospect of Manchester being given the powers that London has had for so long – powers to franchise a bus system that better serves the people of Greater Manchester.  We have been calling for that for years and it is time the government acted.

“Ultimately though there is a lack of vision and ambition in this Queens Speech. It's a missed opportunity to tackle the inequality and insecurity in our country”

Read the full transcript of Jeff’s speech here.

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Jeff Smith calls for action on anti-social motor bikes

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Jeff Smith MP said: "I have been contacted by a number of constituents expressing their concern about the number of off road motor bikes speeding and performing stunts on roads in south Manchester.

I share this concern and have been in regular communication with local officers from Greater Manchester Police (GMP) to ensure that this issue is being given the highest priority.  I have expressed my concern with GMP on the safety implications for pedestrians and road users alike when these bikes are speeding and performing stunts in such an anti-social way.

If you see bikes in your local area causing problems, then please report it to Greater Manchester Police by calling 101 so GMP can build up a picture of where the hotspots for this activity are across the constituency."

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Jeff Smith helps with Clean-Up Campaign in Withington

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Withington Civic Society organised a campaign action day in Withington Village on Saturday 14th May in partnership with Manchester City Council, Southway Housing, University of Manchester, Manchester Student Homes, Old Moat Primary School and other traders and groups from the Withington area. 

Over 50 volunteers were involved, including 20 students from the University of Manchester.

Jeff Smith said: “It was great to see so many local residents and students involved in the clean-up campaign on Saturday in Withington.  I was pleased to be involved too and collect some bags of rubbish. I’ve lived in Withington all my life and the area has a proud history and heritage.  It’s good to see so many people getting involved in community action like this in our area.”

For more on the work of Withington Civic Society in the constituency, have a look at: www.withingtoncivicsociety.org.uk

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Jeff Smith attends opening of Catalyst Youth Centre in Burnage

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N-Gage is a Manchester based charity that gives young people at risk of educational or social exclusion opportunities and skills to achieve their full potential.  They have recently renovated and opened their new Catalyst Youth Centre on Burnage Lane.

Jeff Smith said: “It was great to attend the opening of the Catalyst Youth Centre with the local ward councillors for Burnage last Saturday.  N-Gage are involved with some excellent work with young people in the constituency and I welcome the expansion of their work with the opening of this Youth Centre”

For more on the work of N-Gage in the Constituency, have a look at their website at: http://n-gage.org.uk/

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The Road to June 23: The European Union and Workplace Rights

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On June 23rd, voters across the country will decide on the future of our relationship with the European Union.  This is a crucial moment in our nation’s history and I’m convinced that we are better off in the EU.

Every week until the referendum, I’ll be highlighting one of the reasons we should remain in the European Union.  This week, I’m focusing on the rights in the workplace that are guaranteed by our membership of the EU.

Working people have the most at stake in June’s referendum as it is workers’ rights that are on the ballot paper.  Whether it’s paid maternity leave, rights for part-time workers or equal pay for women, the European Union guarantees that working people are protected.

It’s the EU which ensures that all British workers are entitled to 28 days paid leave, prevents employment discrimination on the basis of gender, and protects workers faced with outsourcing or privatisation.

Over the years of our membership of the EU, we have been able to take these rights for granted. 

Let’s not forget that without these EU guarantees, working people would be left to rely on David Cameron and George Osborne to negotiate a new framework of employment rights.

From the draconian Trade Union Bill to the proliferation of unstable zero-hours contracts, this Tory Government has shown itself to be hostile to the needs of working people.

The EU isn’t a perfect institution and there is a lot of work to be done to create the democratic Europe we need for the future.  However, there is no doubt in my mind that working families are better served working from within than shouting from the sidelines.

 

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Jeff Smith MP calls for debate in Parliament after Government announcement on future of the BBC

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Following a Government statement on the future of the BBC, Withington MP Jeff Smith today called for the proposals to be brought before Parliament.

In presenting the White Paper on Thursday, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport John Whittingdale was forced to backtrack on issues of scheduling and funding, and compromised on the number of Government appointees on the new unitary board to replace the BBC Trust. 

The Labour Party welcomed the Government rethink but warned that the proposals still fall short of the three tests of editorial independence, financial independence and the BBC’s core mission. 

Commenting on the BBC White Paper, Jeff Smith MP said: 

"The BBC is one of the most successful and celebrated British institutions, appreciated in the UK and around the world. 

The public have repeatedly voiced their support for an independent, financially viable BBC free of Government meddling.

I welcome the Government climbdowns announced last week, but the devil remains in the detail.  The Secretary of State has a track record of undermining the BBC so it is crucial that these proposals are brought before Parliament for proper scrutiny and a debate. 

This is a vital moment in the history of the BBC and the Government must listen to the public and protect its independence.”

 

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Jeff Smith MP calls on Government to reverse cuts to Universal Credit payments

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Following a debate on the subject in Parliament called by the Labour Party, Withington MP Jeff Smith today called for the Government to reverse planned cuts to Universal Credit.

The Government introduced the cuts to the work allowance, the amount that any Universal Credit claimant can earn before the benefit is withdrawn, on April 11th this year.  Since then, a number of charities and think tanks have shown the damage that these cuts will do to working households.

The Office for Budget Responsibility confirmed that the cuts to the work allowance represented a £9.6bn reduction in support for working families over the next five years.  The Resolution Foundation calculates that these cuts will result in families with children being £1,300 a year worse off by 2020.   

For lone parents, these cuts are particularly damaging.  The Child Poverty Action Group estimate that a single parent working full-time earning the ‘National Living Wage’ would have to work 46 extra days to make up the difference, more than two working months.

Research from the Labour Party reveals that 2,000 households in Withington will be in receipt of Universal Credit next year, rising to 8,000 by 2020.  Each of these families stands to lose at least £1,000 a year, with some losing as much as £2,630 according to the Children’s Society.

Jeff Smith said: The cuts to the work allowance of Universal Credit are the most recent example of a Government determined to cut spending regardless of the human costs. 

With the level of child poverty already predicted to rise by 10% over the next 5 years, these cuts are making a bad situation worse.

The Government should scrap these cuts and undertake a thorough assessment on the effect of Universal Credit on working families and child poverty’.

Sign the Labour Party petition calling for the Government to reverse these cuts here.

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Jeff Smith becomes founding member of new Parliamentary group on State Pension Inequality

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Jeff Smith has joined MPs from across the House of Commons to form a new Parliamentary group on the State Pension Age. The new group will support those women hit by the acceleration of the equalisation of the State Pension Age, first in 1995 and then in 2011.

In Withington, according to the independent House of Commons Library, around 3,000 women are directly affected by the 2011 Pensions Act alone. Many local residents signed the e-petition calling for transitional arrangements, which received almost 200,000 signatures nationwide.

The Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) campaign works to lobby the Government to introduce transitional arrangements for those women affected, many of whom were not notified about the changes, and took early retirement, leaving them without any income.

The Parliamentary Group, which was launched at the Palace of Westminster today at a standing room only meeting, will be co-chaired by MPs from each of the parties, and will work closely with the WASPI campaign.

The All-Party Group will seek to work with the new Work and Pensions Secretary, Stephen Crabb, to introduce transitional arrangements.

Speaking after the launch of the new campaign group, Jeff Smith MP said:

“We are not seeking to apportion blame to anybody. We simply want to get the best outcome for these women, many of whom have worked hard for decades without taking a penny out of the system.

“I am therefore proud to be a founding member of this new Parliamentary campaign group. I hope that the new Work and Pensions Secretary will be receptive to our concerns, and that we will soon have the equitable outcome that the WASPI women deserve.”

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Jeff Smith MP supports Friends of the Earth campaign to save the bees

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Withington MP Jeff Smith joined Friends of the Earth and 38 Degrees to call on the Government to keep the ban on bee-harming pesticides.

In recent weeks, the National Farmers Union has requested special permission to use bee-harming pesticides on oilseed rape crops.  Last year, a similar request was submitted and granted, forming a dangerous precedent and ignoring a petition signed by over half a million people.

The ‘Bee…cause you’re worth it’ campaign seeks to highlight the crucial contributions of bees to our food supply and the ramifications of the decline in the bee population.  A third of all of our food depends on the pollination of bees but we have seen a 45% decrease in the commercial bee population in the UK since 2010.

Dave Timms from Friends of the Earth said: “Allowing farmers to use banned bee-harming pesticides would be reckless and unnecessary.

Bees are essential for pollinating our crops - we can’t afford to gamble with their future. The government must keep these dangerous pesticides out of our fields.”

Jeff Smith MP said: ‘I am proud to support the campaign of Friends of the Earth and 38 Degrees to urge the Government to maintain the ban on bee-harming pesticides.

Bees are a vital part of our ecosystem.  They increase the yield of our fruit and vegetables, expand our medical knowledge and save our farmers over £1.8 billion by pollinating our crops.  The scientific evidence for their importance is overwhelming and the Government must listen to the experts and resist attempts to drop the ban.’

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Jeff Smith Stands up for Healthcare Students

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Jeff Smith, MP for Manchester Withington, has challenged the Government on their plans to scrap NHS Bursaries in a debate called by the Labour Party.

The proposals, announced at the end of last year, replace the current bursary system with loans to cover tuition, clinical placements, and living costs.  As a result, nurses, midwives and other healthcare professionals are likely to enter the job market with at least £50,000 worth of debt repayable immediately upon graduating.

The proposals have been described as ‘high risk’ by the Royal College of Nursing, likely to put off future students from choosing the courses.  The Royal College of Midwives has argued that ‘cutting public funding to train frontline staff in an already struggling and understaffed maternity service just doesn’t make sense.’

Speaking in the debate in Parliament, Jeff Smith said ‘For the 2,000 students currently studying at Manchester University’s School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work, along with those weighing up their future with healthcare education in mind, the Government’s proposals do nothing to instil any confidence that the Government understands the perspective of student nurses.

Because they have to work many hours in unpaid clinical placements during their courses, they don’t have the chance to support their studies with part time paid work.  Many are mature students with families.  They need more support than other students.

The refusal to engage with experts in the field has led to a misguided policy which privileges healthcare education for those who can afford decades of debt.  It fails to ensure fair and equal access to healthcare education.’

Jeff joined the calls of the Royal College of Midwives, the Royal College of Nursing, UNISON and the National Union of Students for the Government to halt the proposals and undertake a thorough consultation into the impacts of any removal of Government grants.

Read his full speech here.

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