On a recent Saturday I met a group of junior doctors to discuss the proposed new contract and the NHS. Their weekend time is valuable; most already work very long hours, and some had done a long shift the night before. But they are worried. And it's not just about their own jobs, it's about the future of our health service.
The government has now announced it will impose a new contract on junior doctors. It will make them worse off, and remove the safeguards that stop hospitals requiring doctors to work excessive hours. We are now under threat of back to the old days of overworked and exhausted hospital staff. Tired junior doctors are bad for patient care.
The argument is that we need to build a health service that serves us seven days a week, and that's something most people would agree with. But if we're going to have an NHS that works, we need a workforce that feels valued and is not exhausted, and we need to put in the resources to reward them properly.
Junior doctors are the backbone of our hospitals. They have spent years studying, training, often building up huge personal debt, because they want to make a difference and help those in need. Their starting salary is £22,636, and most will work for years before they move on to work as a specialist. Many work more than 50 hours a week, often including weekends, because they're dedicated to the job.
The doctors I met believe passionately in the NHS, but they told me about large numbers of colleagues thinking for the first time about moving to work abroad. One is on maternity leave, and the contract hits her even more than most. She told me how she loves her job "but after this I'd never let my daughter train as a doctor".
The Royal Colleges have warned that the new contract is a threat to the recruitment and retention of staff. We can't have a seven day NHS without the doctors to deliver it.
Jeremy Hunt's decision to impose a contract on them is yet another blow to a workforce that feels undervalued. I was in the House of Commons chamber today for the Secretary of State¹s statement and - along with my Labour colleagues - spoke about the junior doctors I met and the effect this will have on staff morale and retention.
Labour have consistently opposed the Government's handling of this issue and Labour's Shadow Health Secretary warned in the House today the damage to the NHS that will result from imposing new contracts on junior doctors. You can read a transcript of her statement by clicking here.
On a recent Saturday I met a group of junior doctors to discuss the proposed new contract and the NHS. Their weekend time is valuable; most already work very...
Manchester Withington MP, Jeff Smith, has visited his old school, Old Moat Primary School, to see first hand the 'Born to Read' programme run in conjunction with Save The Children and Beanstalk.
Save The Children's partnership with Beanstalk is helping to give children in the UK the reading skills they need for a better future by getting volunteers into local primary schools to support children with their reading.
Jeff Smith said: "Reading well is key to a child’s future. Learning to read unlocks a world of opportunity. It underpins a child’s chances of achieving at school and, beyond that, of finding work.
"But far too many boys and girls in the UK fall badly behind in literacy in their first few years at school. Most of these children never catch up, leaving school without basic reading skills or good qualifications. It's vital we break that cycle at an early stage and I was proud to visit my old Primary School to see how the 'Born to Read' scheme is working locally."
Manchester Withington MP, Jeff Smith, has visited his old school, Old Moat Primary School, to see first hand the 'Born to Read' programme run in conjunction with Save The Children and Beanstalk. Save...
This week Jeff Smith MP signed the Holocaust Educational Trust’s Book of Commitment, in doing so pledging his commitment to Holocaust Memorial Day and honouring those who were murdered during the Holocaust as well as paying tribute to the extraordinary Holocaust survivors who work tirelessly to educate young people.
Wednesday 27th January will mark the liberation of the Nazi concentration and death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, the site of the largest mass murder in history.
In the weeks leading up to and after Holocaust Memorial Day, thousands of commemorative events will be arranged by schools, faith groups and community organisations across the country, remembering all the victims of the Holocaust and subsequent genocides.
After signing the Book of Commitment, Jeff Smith MP commented:
“Holocaust Memorial Day marks the anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration and death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau – and is an important opportunity to remember the victims and survivors of the Holocaust and make sure they are not forgotten. I encourage all constituents to mark the day and to join members of my community in the fight against prejudice and intolerance.”
Karen Pollock MBE, Chief Executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said:
“We are proud that Jeff Smith is supporting Holocaust Memorial Day. As we mark the 71st anniversary of the end of the Holocaust and the liberation of the concentration camps, it is vitally important that we both continue to remember and learn from the appalling events of the Holocaust – as well as ensuring that we continue to challenge antisemitism and all forms of bigotry.
This week Jeff Smith MP signed the Holocaust Educational Trust’s Book of Commitment, in doing so pledging his commitment to Holocaust Memorial Day and honouring those who were murdered during the Holocaust as well as paying...
In Parliament today, Labour are using Opposition Day debate time to hold the Government to account on their decision to cut student financial support; and this morning I met with students and representatives of the NUS to let them know I'll be voting in support of keeping student maintenance grants.
Scrapping maintenance grants in favour of loans is deliberately targeting students from the lowest income families who are working hard and doing the right thing to better their lot in life. Instead of investing in future generations the Tories are betraying students and making life harder for the estimated 500,000 students from the poorest backgrounds who - as a direct result of scrapping maintenance grants in favour of loans - will leave university with substantially higher debts than their better-off peers.
This is a political decision - indicative of wider government policy of replacing grants with loans such as scrapping student nurse bursaries - motivated by short-term financial savings.
Experience in Scotland shows that if you replace bursaries with loans, then students from the poorest families end up with the biggest debt and progress on widening access is reduced. Students from the poorest background shouldn’t be saddled with a lifetime of additional debt to pay for the Tories failure, this change will not benefit students or deal with the self-made black hole in student finances caused by raising tuition fees to £9,000.
The Government must revisit its plans urgently.
In Parliament today, Labour are using Opposition Day debate time to hold the Government to account on their decision to cut student financial support; and this morning I met with students...
Frontline Wildlife Crime Unit could face axe from Defra and Home Office in Government cuts
Jeff Smith, MP for Manchester Withington, was at the Houses of Parliament this week to support World Animal Protection in their campaign to save one of the world’s leading police departments – the National Wildlife Crime Unit.
The National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU) is dedicated to supporting wildlife crime investigations and is fundamental to providing and analysing national wildlife crime intelligence across the UK. Without them, a huge number of wildlife crime cases would not be successfully investigated or prosecuted.
In the UK our native wildlife is targeted for profit and entertainment, with animals being harmed and persecuted in devastating ways. Rare bird egg theft, illegal deer poaching, hare coursing and indiscriminate cruelty to wild animals are just some of the problems faced by wildlife crime police around the UK.
But, following the Spending Review the future of the unit is under threat. Ministers have confirmed a decision, either way, will be made by the end of January, meaning in only a matter of weeks their work could face complete collapse.
Many Ministers repeatedly use the work of the Unit to demonstrate the Government’s successful commitment to tackling wildlife crime, yet they won’t confirm that the NWCU will be saved with money from their £13 million pound budget.
Jeff Smith MP said: “I’m pleased to join the campaign to save the National Wildlife Crime Unit. I hope the Government will listen to the concerns that have been raised by organisations such as World Animal Protection and recognise the importance of funding the National Wildlife Crime Unit so that it can continue to carry out its vital work beyond 2016.”
Head of Public Affairs at World Animal Protection, Josh Kaile, said: “The Government has made much of their £13 million package to combat the illegal wildlife trade internationally. The National Wildlife Crime Unit only requires a fraction of this budget every year, with Defra and the Home Office currently paying £136k each. This continues to be a small amount to pay for such a vital unit, particularly in contrast to the millions being spent on global projects.”
Frontline Wildlife Crime Unit could face axe from Defra and Home Office in Government cuts Jeff Smith, MP for Manchester Withington, was at the Houses of Parliament this week...
Jeff Smith MP showed his support for people fighting bad housing and homelessness in Manchester this week, when he attended the launch of Shelter’s new campaign to raise awareness of its vital advice and support services.
Jeff attended the event on Tuesday 5th January where he met with Shelter’s Director of Services Alison Mohammed to discuss the frontline services Shelter delivers in the local area, and across the UK. These include the 1413 cases that Shelter dealt with in the Manchester area last year alone.
Prompted by a new Shelter and YouGov survey, the event highlighted the strain families face in the North West in January, with one in eight rent or mortgage payers fearing they will be unable to meet their housing costs this month.
At the same time 17% of people in the region are cutting back on winter fuel and clothing to meet their housing payments – the equivalent of 960,000 people.
Jeff and Shelter are urging anyone who is struggling with their housing costs to seek advice, before problems spiral out of control. Shelter, the leading housing and homelessness charity, helps over 4 million people a year with free, practical housing advice, through its online support, face to face and national helpline services.
Shelter’s Director of Services Alison Mohammed said: “Every day at Shelter we hear from families who face the bleak choice between missing their rent or cutting back on heating. Or from parents whose children have stopped asking for treats because they know they’re struggling just to keep a roof over their heads.
“No-one should have to face these problems alone, which is why Shelter is here 365 days a year. Getting advice early can make all the difference, and we’re only ever a click or a call away at shelter.org.uk/advice or on 0808 800 4444.”
Jeff Smith MP said: “Shelter’s frontline services provide invaluable assistance to many of Manchester’s residents, particularly at what can be an extremely tough time of year. They can often be the difference between a family staying in their home or becoming homeless.
“I know from my regular surgeries that it is absolutely critical people who are struggling to stay in their homes seek help at the earliest opportunity. I would urge anyone who is having difficulty making their rent or mortgage payments to contact Shelter, or myself, as soon as they can.
“With so many parents in the UK cutting back on winter essentials to pay their rent or mortgage, it is important that people in Manchester are aware of the support that is available to them.”
Jeff Smith MP showed his support for people fighting bad housing and homelessness in Manchester this week, when he attended the launch of Shelter’s new campaign to raise awareness...
Yesterday I spoke during the Opposition Day debate on mental health.
The more that mental health is discussed, the clearer it becomes that it is something that affects people in huge numbers from all walks of life, all backgrounds and all ages.
I supported the Labour motion stating that mental health should be treated with the same priority as physical health and that not enough progress has been made in translating parity of esteem between mental and physical health into practice.
You can watch my speech here.
Yesterday I spoke during the Opposition Day debate on mental health. The more that mental health is discussed, the clearer it becomes that it is something that affects people...
Jeff Smith, MP for Manchester Withington, visited businesses across south Manchester over the weekend in support of Small Business Saturday.
Saturday 5 December marked the UK’s third Small Business Saturday, where people are encouraged to ‘shop small’ and celebrate the contribution of local entrepreneurs and small firms. The day aims to give a boost to trade and a long term lift to our high streets. The idea started in the USA, and took off here following a campaign by Labour MP Chukka Ummuna.
In 2014, 16.5 million Britons visited a local independent store – 2.7m more than on Small Business Saturday in 2013. Across the UK different activities took place to promote Britain’s small businesses – and Jeff visited a number of local businesses across Withington, Didsbury and Chorlton, including clothes shop Punk and Disorderly (pictured).
Jeff Smith MP said: “Small Business Saturday provides a great boost to small businesses on a key shopping day in the run-up to Christmas. We should do all we can to support local businesses and thank them for the vital contribution they make. They help to grow the local economy, give job and shopping opportunities to the local community and boost diversity on the High Street. Small Business Saturday gets bigger every year and I’m pleased to support the campaign.”
Jeff Smith, MP for Manchester Withington, visited businesses across south Manchester over the weekend in support of Small Business Saturday. Saturday 5 December marked the UK’s third Small Business...
Jeff Smith MP has visited Royal Mail’s Manchester South Delivery Office to pass on Christmas wishes and encouragement to postmen and women at their busiest time of year.
Mr Smith was shown around the office by Delivery Office Manager, Joanna Spencer, and was introduced to the postmen and women who are working hard sorting and delivering mail in the Manchester South area during the Festive season.
Jeff Smith said: “There is a huge amount of effort and dedication that goes into delivering a first class Christmas at Royal Mail’s busiest time of year. It was great to meet the team here at Manchester South.
“Our postal workers do such an important job at this time of year and I would like to thank them for their efforts and wish them all the best over the busy festive period.”
Joanna Spencer, Royal Mail Delivery Office Manager at Manchester South, commented: “Our postmen and women are working extremely hard to deliver Christmas cards, letters and parcels to people across Manchester South. We are grateful that the Jeff visited the office to see our operation and to support the team.
“We’d like to remind our customers to post early so that friends and family have longer to enjoy their Christmas greetings. We would also like to ask everyone to please always use the postcode as this helps us greatly in the job that we do at this busy time.”
The last recommended posting dates for Christmas are:
Second Class – Saturday 19 December 2015
First Class – Monday 21 December 2015
Special Delivery – Wednesday 23 December 2015
Customers can also help Royal Mail ensure that all their letters, cards and parcels are delivered as quickly and efficiently as possible by taking a few easy steps:
- Post early – Avoid disappointment by posting your cards and parcels early.
- Use a postcode – A clearly addressed card or parcel, with a postcode, and return address on the back of the envelope, will ensure quick and efficient delivery.
- Use Special Delivery – For valuable and important packages and parcels guarantee delivery with Royal Mail’s Special Delivery, which means your gift is tracked, traced and insured against loss.
- Wrap parcels well and always give a return address
- For more information about Royal Mail’s last recommended posting dates, please visit: www.royalmail.com/greetings or call 03457 740 740.
Jeff Smith MP has visited Royal Mail’s Manchester South Delivery Office to pass on Christmas wishes and encouragement to postmen and women at their busiest time of year....
Many constituents have contacted me to ask my position on the government proposal for air strikes against Isil targets in Syria. I wanted to lay out my thinking at this point ahead of the parliamentary debate and vote.
A number of colleagues who've been MPs for many years have told me that this is the most difficult decision they've ever faced. It is a fine judgement call, and it's not one I'm going to make lightly. I will continue to look with an open mind at the case presented by the government and at other evidence; consider the advice of experts on the issue (including Syrian people); and consider the many representations I am receiving from constituents and others. There are further briefings and discussions taking place over the next two days before the debate itself.
Authorising military action is the most serious decision an MP can make and deserves to be treated as such. Those who characterise it as a purely political Tory v Labour issue are being unhelpful. The socialist president of France has asked the UK government to join action. There will be Conservative MPs who will vote against. This is more important than party politics.
Similarly, those who are trying to reduce it to a question of support for the Labour leadership are wrong to do so. If I vote against, it won't be because of support for Jeremy Corbyn, just as if I voted in favour it wouldn't be because of support for David Cameron. This is a decision that MPs will have to live with for the rest of our lives. I will make my decision because I think it's the right thing to do.
Neither does either side of the argument have a monopoly on principle. I have decent, thoughtful colleagues who will be voting for and who will be voting against increased military action - in either case it's because they think it's the best way to help save lives and end conflict in the long term. Both decisions deserve to be respected because I know they will not be made lightly.
Isil are a group of fascists who have committed mass murder in recent weeks in Tunisia, Ankara, Paris, Sinai and Beirut. They have been behind seven thwarted attacks in the UK, and they will undoubtedly try to strike here again. They target Muslim people as viciously as non Muslims. The question is not whether their poisonous ideology and murderous activities should be stopped, but how.
It's generally agreed that there needs to be an approach which includes diplomatic, political, and economic as well as military action. We also need a comprehensive humanitarian plan to deal with the Syrian refugee crisis, as well as a thorough reconstruction plan.
For those who say we shouldn't get dragged into military action, it needs to be pointed out that we are already involved - carrying out air strikes against Isil targets in Iraq. They have made a difference to the campaign against Isil, and minimised civilian casualties. The government are now proposing we extend air strikes to Isil targets in North Eastern Syria. The language of people who refer in very general terms to "the bombing of Syria" is very unhelpful. No one is proposing indiscriminate bombing of Damascus. There are specific Isil military and economic activities around Raqqah which are proposed to be targeted. There is a logic to extending the strikes against Isil which are currently taking place in Iraq to the same targets across a border which Isil do not recognise and does not effectively exist.
I am not opposed to military action in principle. I agree that a strong moral and legal case for action has been made. United Nations Security Council resolution 2249 calls on all member states to take "all necessary measures" to tackle the "unprecedented" threat of Isil. But the key question now is whether the government's plan for action in Syria is likely to work, and to do more good than harm. That is where I have concerns.
Based on briefings we've received, I believe that UK aircraft would add to the coalition strike capability. But it's clear that this will not defeat Isil without a wider military strategy, including ground troops. David Cameron has rightly ruled out the possibility of UK troops on the ground. The government has said there are 70,000 Sunni fighters who can make up a ground force. This seems to me a very unconvincing claim. These fighters are in a large number of disparate groups many of whom are focused on fighting the Assad regime. They do not look like a coherent potential ground force. And without a wider military strategy that includes ground troops, air strikes in isolation will not defeat Isil. It may be a gesture of support and solidarity with our allies that brings its own dangers.
In my view there is a real risk of Isil using an escalation of military activity to boost their (effective) propaganda war. In 2003 I argued that action in Iraq would lead to increased radicalisation. Unfortunately I was correct. While this is a quite different situation to 2003 Iraq, it's important to learn the lessons of past mistakes. My worry is that Isil will exploit escalated action to further add to their narrative of a growing world war between the west and Islam. This is a particular concern if an attack goes wrong and there are significant civilian casualties. This danger of increased radicalisation, and playing into Isil hands, is one that needs to be taken seriously into account.
The political and diplomatic strategy also needs further development. The chaos that Bashar Al-Assad has reaped in Syria has been a key factor in driving people into the arms of Isil. There are Syrian people whose judgement I trust who tell me that we can't defeat Isil without removing Assad. The way to remove him is not through military action; there needs to be a negotiated transition plan to a post Assad Syria. While I welcome the progress at the discussions in Vienna, I'm not convinced the plan is yet sufficiently advanced. Until we have a coherent plan that will lead to a ceasefire in the civil war, moderate Sunnis who are fighting the regime will surely not be part of the ground force that is necessary to defeat Isil. And without a coordinated ground force, air strikes alone run the risk of being counter productive.
These are complex issues that MPs have to take into account in making a judgement. There is no easy answer. In making a decision, I will continue to consider representations and evidence, and will wait to see the wording of any proposed motion. But while I am not against further military action in principle, I am yet to be convinced that the case for this action is made.
Many constituents have contacted me to ask my position on the government proposal for air strikes against Isil targets in Syria. I wanted to lay out my thinking at this...