Last week was an extremely busy one in Parliament, with a large number of debates and questions. On Tuesday there was a debate on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP as it’s commonly known. This is the new trade deal between the US and EU, which is currently being negotiated. I have been arguing for many months that the NHS should be exempt from the deal and I raised this again during the debate – click here for details. It is now Labour policy that the NHS should be exempt.
On Wednesday I had a Northern Ireland question on youth unemployment in the country, which is 25% higher than the British average. I then raised a Point of Order about social security sanctions. As you can see from my previous posts here and here I have been raising this issue repeatedly with the Department for Work and Pensions. In a letter I received last week from the Employment Minister Esther McVey MP, the Minister appeared to backtrack on her commitment to an independent inquiry on wider sanctioning policy by her Department. This commitment was made to the Work and Pensions Select Committee in November 2013 and welcomed in our subsequent report on Jobcentreplus, published on 28th January 2014. I raised the issue with Mr Speaker in the Chamber and you can read the exchange here. I followed this up in the debate on Thursday on welfare reforms and the need for a cumulative impact assessment on their impact on disabled people, here. I will continue to hold the Department to account on inappropriate sanctions.
Also on Wednesday, I intervened during the debate on the bedroom tax to raise the lack of smaller accommodation in Oldham that people can move into. Labour has committed to abolish the bedroom tax. I also spoke in the subsequent debate on flooding about the Government’s removal of a priority to ‘prepare for and manage risk from flood’. The full exchange can be read here.