Congratulations to Tracy Brabin, Batley and Spen’s newly elected Labour MP.
It was great to welcome Tracy to Parliament earlier this week, I know she will be a tireless champion for people in Batley and Spen.
I was at Wakefield College’s ‘topping out’ ceremony, laying – very badly – the last bricks for the new Advanced Skills and Innovation Centre earlier this month. The centre will provide higher education for students as well as a hub for innovation and entrepreneurship in Wakefield.
Wakefield students starting university this autumn will face more borrowing and more debt. Around 800 students a year from low income families in Wakefield used to receive grants of up to £3,300 to help with their living costs while at university. But the government has scrapped these grants, and students from poorer families will have to borrow more instead. If you have children who have left for university, then please make sure they get their free vaccination against meningitis. The number of meningitis cases has risen by more than 800 per cent in the past five years and young people are especially at risk.
In September a student at Northumbria University died of the bug. Worryingly, official statistics show that the number of people taking advantage of the vaccine in Wakefield is well below the national average. I strongly encourage all mums, dads and carers to make sure our young people are protected against this dangerous disease. I will be talking to our CCG and local council as to how we drive take up locally.
As the government gets ready to start Britain’s exit from the European Union, I and Labour colleagues have been demanding the government sets out its plans before triggering Article 50. This is not intended to block the country’s departure from the EU, but to make sure that we get the best deal for Wakefield and for Britain.
No one voted for their food to become more expensive, for the wages of low-paid workers to be hit, or for jobs to be lost in manufacturing, farming or financial services, which is the danger if the government opts for a hard exit from the EU.
I also spoke in Parliament on the humanitarian catastrophe in Aleppo earlier this month. It’s shocking that nearly half a million people have been killed in the war, five million refugees have fled their country and eight million more have been forced from their homes in search of safety. They are fleeing the terror of Assad, ISIL and now Russia. Every day on the news we see fresh pictures of Assad destroying his country, one of the oldest civilizations in the world. The city of Aleppo is besieged by Assad’s forces and bearing the brunt of his war crimes. We need a no-fly zone over the city of Aleppo. Syria’s children are relying on us. We must not let them down. It’s great to hear that Wakefield Council is committed to welcoming 100 refugees from Syria fleeing conflict and persecution. Wakefield has a proud tradition of welcoming refugees. Jewish constituents have told me powerful stories of being welcomed by the Mayor when they first stepped off the train in this city fleeing Hitler in the 1930s. Let’s ensure this legacy is never lost.