Letter from Parliament - Jim Dobbin MP
Date published: 05 March 2012
The official closure of the British Aerospace Factory in Chadderton is a massive blow to the locality. The site has provided thousands of jobs throughout the local area, including right across this constituency, and has done so for a good number of years. It was the place where both the Vulcan bomber and the famous Lancaster bomber were built and had such a profound effect on our ability to respond to the threat posed by the Second World War. It has been obvious for some years that the B.A.E management were deliberately down- sizing the site to force a permanent closure.
Speaking to members of Middleton’s Heritage Group recently, I was reminded of the historic, radical history of the town . Cardinal Thomas Langley built the Parish Church 600 years ago with its’ famous wooden tower and its’ links into the Saints associated with Lindisfarne in the North East. There is the famous Queen Elizabeth Grammar School and of course all around the town you can see the architecture of Edgar Wood. Middleton has much to admire. The other parts of this constituency also have their place in history with many attributes to their name and I very much look forward to celebrating this in the next article.
The House of Commons is a strange place under this Coalition Government. During the Parliamentary week of 27 February until the 1 March we had no votes on any legislation at all. The debates were either Back Bench debates or opposition debates or debates on non-controversial legislation. This is developing into a familiar pattern and is probably a result of a coalition that is deliberately avoiding votes of sensitive legislation. The House of Lords, however, are dealing with all of the Governments’ troubled Bills; the Health and Social Care Bill, the Legal Aid Bill and the Welfare Reform Bill which is now Law.
As this is International Year of Co-operatives and Rochdale Borough is the global lead, it is worth mentioning Fair Trade fortnight between 27 February and March 11. We had an event in Parliament to celebrate Fair Trade. A team from Ghana described how the democracy of the Co-Operative movement has enabled them to farm their produce, like Cocoa, which is then exported around the world. The money they make from this goes on to be invested in water programmes, toilets and even in schools. Surely that is worth celebrating. This should encourage us to buy Fair Trade products.
The past week has seen the beginning of a campaign to get energy companies to give us a fairer deal. The campaign is called ‘The Big Switch’ and is a response to the confusing number of tariffs provided by gas and electricity companies. Communication with people in Heywood and Middleton has highlighted the need for change. I am in support of ‘The Big Switch’ so that the people of Heywood and Middleton are offered a fairer deal.
The news that two police forces are considering hiving off some service provision to private companies with the backing of the Home Secretary, Theresa May, is worrying. This is obviously a result of the Government swingeing cuts to police numbers. This is happening at a time when crime levels are on the increase.
Can I thank the local police in Heywood and throughout Greater Manchester for their handling of the threat from the National Front, the English Defence League and other minor right wing groups last week end. I saw at first hand the thorough and detailed system they used to protect the people of Heywood and avoid what could have been a nasty situation. The local community also acted sensibly and avoided a confrontation. Let’s hope we have seen the last of this kind of intrusion in the town. I must also congratulate the Local Authority staff for their partnership working alongside the police. It worked a treat.
I note that free bus travel for older people is under threat from David Cameron and Nick Clegg. The Lib-Dems are seeking means-testing of free bus passes and Tory councils have asked the government for permission to restrict entitlement. Despite David Cameron’s general election pledge, the Tory-led Government has cut funding for concessionary bus passes, over seen the loss of one in five supported bus services and axed concessionary coach travel affecting millions of pensioners and people with a disability across the country. A costly means tested scheme should be avoided. Free bus travel for older people as a universal benefit for all pensioners introduced by Gordon Brown should be an entitlement.
There are only a few weeks to save the National Health Service. I therefore encourage as many of you as possible to sign the e-petition demanding that David Cameron drops this nasty Bill. I hope he see sense, although I doubt it.
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