Parliamentary Update – Children in Poverty; Air Quality; Arms Exports; Social Security Sanctions; Overseas Aid

This has been another very busy week in Parliament.  On Monday in Education Questions I asked the Education Secretary about the Children’s Commissioner for England’s report on income inequality and its effect on children.

I said, “Today’s report by the Children’s Commissioner for England has highlighted the increasing gap between rich and poor families and its effect on children. It states that in spite of measures such as universal free school meals for infants, the Government are failing to meet their commitment under the UN convention on the rights of the child, particularly to protect the most disadvantaged children. Does the Secretary of State regret the decisions of the Government that have led to such a damning report?”  The response can be read here.

I then asked the Transport Secretary about how the Road Investment Strategy will ensure that air quality does not become poorer, given that in some areas one in twelve deaths are linked to poor air quality.  The full exchange can be read in Hansard here.

I subsequently attended the start of the Westminster Hall debate on Palestine – a backbench debate granted following the support by over 124,000 people of an e-petition on the issue.  Unfortunately, due to other business in Parliament, I was unable to make a speech, however, I did make an intervention calling for the UK Government to act in a responsible way regarding arms sales to Israel.  This followed on from my Defence question last week, at which I also raised the issue of arms exports to Israel.

Tuesday morning saw a Westminster Hall debate on benefit sanctioning, secured by my colleague Paul Blomfield MP.  I have been working on inappropriate sanctions imposed by the DWP for over a year now and the Work and Pensions Select Committee, of which I am a member have now announced an independent inquiry into this issue.  The deadline for written submissions is on 12th December.  More information on how to submit written evidence can be found here.

During the debate I made a number of interventions about the ineffectiveness of sanctions in getting social security claimants into work and the Select Committee’s report findings about DWP pressure to get claimants ‘off-flow’.

Wednesday saw the Chancellor make his Autumn Statement and following the statement I quizzed him about the Government’s broken economic promises and the impact of his announcement on tax credits on people in Oldham East and Saddleworth, one in three of whom are on the Minimum Wage.  More information on the Autumn Statement and my interview on BBC North West News on Wednesday evening can be found here.

Friday saw the International Development (ODA Target) Bill in the House for its Report Stage and Third Reading.  I had a school visit in Oldham on Friday morning, but managed to get to Parliament for the Third Reading debate and vote at lunchtime and support the Bill.

This Bill will place a duty on all future UK governments to meet the United Nations target for official development assistance of spending 0.7% of Gross National Income on international aid.  This Bill is a Labour initiative, completing a course set by the last Labour government.  Despite featuring in their 2010 Manifesto and Coalition Agreement, the Tory Party have failed to deliver on their commitment to spend 0.7% GNI on aid or legislate for the 0.7% commitment.  I believe that British aid works and with this Bill, a vote in Parliament will save lives across the world.  The UK’s commitment to development is morally right and in our national interest.

I am delighted so many MPs were able to be in Parliament on Friday to support the Bill, which now moves to the House of Lords.

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