Half a million people in the UK are anxiously waiting for their passports, not knowing whether they will be able to go on their holidays this summer.
A massive number of people, despite having sent their applications in good time for processing, are facing having their holidays ruined due to the current back log.
Many people save for months to pay for a holiday, if they are lucky enough to be able to do so, but there are now reports that an extra fee to ‘fast track passports’ is being imposed on holidaymakers.
My constituents have been deeply affected by the outrageous backlog in the Passport Office. Each and every person who has contacted me is reporting a three month wait or longer. It is turning into a passport lottery where people don’t know whether or not their passports will arrive on time.
The Government are denying the serious backlog, with Home Secretary Teresa May claiming that the Passport Office is meeting its target. However it has been said that job cuts and office closures have left the Passport Office unable to handle the level of demand.
Like many other Labour MP’s up and down the country, I have been left to pick up the pieces of the Governments failings within the Passport Office. Luckily, nobody in my constituency has missed out on their holiday - yet.
If the Passport office is meeting its target, like Teresa May says, then how is there a 3 month wait for my constituents to renew their passports?
This out of touch Government obviously doesn’t know what it is like to save for months on end to take your family away, only to be told your summer could be ruined.
To me, it would be an absolute tragedy if just one of my constituents missed their holiday as their passport was not returned on time. That is why I will continue to press the Government on the Passport Office’s current failings.
Half a million people in the UK are anxiously waiting for their passports, not knowing whether they will be able to go on their holidays this summer.A massive number of...
Since the Tory-led Coalition came to power in 2010 our NHS has not been safe in the government’s hands.
I know from talking to my constituents that it is not uncommon to wait over seven days to get an appointment with a GP, I also frequently hear concerns surrounding under staffed hospitals and huge waiting lists for hospital appointments.
Hospitals in my area are really struggling, they are understaffed and overworked. This is unsurprising seeing as Yorkshire has lost 1,110 nurses since 2010.
Under the Tories many people, especially the elderly, are ending up at our already swamped A&E departments, waiting for hours on end for issues better dealt with by a GP or better still, within their own homes. It is atrocious and cannot go on.
We heard that last week Ed Miliband spent two nights in an NHS hospital. He sat on the wards, spoke to staff and patients and observed how day to day hospital life is run.
That is because Labour wants to understand the problems facing the NHS from the inside, directly from the staff themselves.
Something needs to be done to save our NHS.
A labour government would guarantee an appointment with your GP within 48 hours, or, if you need to be seen urgently, the maximum waiting time would be 24 hours, not 7 days like it is under the Tories.
It is not just GPs, hospitals and A&E departments that are suffering, the services which provide so much care to us and our families are suffering too. Take carers for instance, many of whom are not even paid the minimum wage and are expected to spend only 15 minutes with each person.
This Tory ‘clock watch care’ is appalling; it leaves barely enough time for a carer to get in the house, take off their coat and put the kettle on before they have to leave. It is not the type of care we want for our loved ones.
Therefore, on top of the GP promise Labour has also announced a care charter. This care charter would put an end to 15 minute visits, it would also introduce a Licence to Practice to keep an eye on care managers and introduce proper training for new care staff. Labour would also scrap exploitative zero hours contracts and make sure carers are paid at least the minimum wage.
The NHS is one of Labour's greatest achievements; it should be based around care and quality, not competition and privatisation. Labour will put real care back at the heart of our NHS.
Since the Tory-led Coalition came to power in 2010 our NHS has not been safe in the government’s hands. I know from talking to my constituents that it is not...
Today the Labour Party will be campaigning to highlight the long record of broken promises the Lib Dems have delivered in the past four years.
Here in Sheffield the campaign will have a sharp focus because one of the city’s MPs is none other than Nick Clegg. Remember him? He’s the one who painted his as the party of high principle at the 2010 General Election.
Then he was shiny and new. Now he looks rather shopsoiled -- every single serious pledge the Lib Dems made has been broken.
His party promised to scrap tuition fees, then trebled them. They promised to keep VAT low then increased it. They promised fair taxes then gave millionaires a tax break.
They say they have fixed the economy but with people on average £1600 worse off, no one is feeling better off.
They promised to deliver constitutional change, to reform the House of Lords and the voting system; low and behold they delivered neither.
The voters have noticed they aren’t getting what they voted for – it’s no surprise that they have slumped in the polls.
Many people will feel that the worst decision the Lib Dems took was to enter into a coalition with such a right wing Conservative party..
Personally, I believe the most catastrophic thing Nick Clegg has declared is his ambition to remain Deputy Prime Minister whichever party gains the most seats at the next general election. This shows Nick Clegg to be nothing other than an opportunist; happy to cling on to power no matter what.
This is everything which the British public hates about politics. It is utterly immoral and nakedly ambitious.
And it’s not just Nick Clegg who is breaking promises. The Lib Dems are all the same, even Lib Dem councillors here in Sheffield show a lack of loyalty and conviction, sharing similar traits to their dear leader.
Let me elaborate - Shaffaq Mohammed who has represented the Broomhill ward for over ten years has done a chicken run; fearing an embarrassing election defeat he has decided not to seek re-election in Broomhill and instead he will stand in a safer Lib Dem seat in Nick Clegg's own constituency.
But we have news for the Lib Dems: they can run, but they cannot hide.
My first point of call on my visit to Sheffield will be to Shaffaq’s old ward, to support the Labour candidate, Kat Baker.
I will then be heading straight to Nick Clegg's own constituency where I will meet with Crookes ward Labour candidate Anne Murphy who is hoping to beat Shaffaq, the Lib Dem leader who has no links to his new ward.
Labour has two great candidates, Kat Baker and Anne Murphy, who will work hard and stand up for ordinary working people in their areas. And with our 10 - point cost of living contract, Labour has made a concrete promise to people. This promise includes freezing energy prices, helping working parents with 25 hours of free childcare and tackling zero hour contracts.
Nationally and locally the Lib Dems have leaders who give politics a bad name. They won’t be forgiven by the people of Sheffield and the country as a whole.
Today the Labour Party will be campaigning to highlight the long record of broken promises the Lib Dems have delivered in the past four years. Here in Sheffield the...
This week marked Workers’ Memorial Day which remembers those killed or seriously harmed at work and to raise awareness of the importance of work safety measures.
Safety at work is of a huge importance to everyone; from the family members of those unnecessarily harmed or killed at work, to employers who need healthy staff.
Workers Memorial Day will especially resonate with my constituents. It can be a time for us to remember the people who had arguably one of the most dangerous jobs there is; the Miners. This year marked the 30th anniversary of the Miner’s strike and many will remember what the conditions were like.
On Workers Memorial Day, we need to take the opportunity to compel employers to look after their staff, to value human life and to not to neglect health and safety spending to cut costs for higher profits.
The TUC argue that at least 20,000 people die prematurely each year from work related illness. Furthermore, a recent Health and Safety Executive (HSE) report revealed that in 2012/13 alone 175,000 people were injured at work.
In the 21st century it is a shocking fact that, as the TUC report suggests, more people are killed at work every year than in wars.
Yet, even with this knowledge, the Tory-led Government has made cuts to health and safety spending. Describing health and safety regulation as a ‘burden’ the Government has pursued policies which are based on a ‘pro-business, anti regulation ideology’.
However, despite debilitating ideological Government policies, the majority of businesses I have been in contact with are very supportive of health and safety measures. They want to keep their staff safe, well and happy as they are more likely to stay on, decreasing staff turnover and recruitment costs. The majority would never want a member of staff hurt or unwell due to an inadequate working environment.
The Government’s position towards work safety is dangerous; they have cut health and safety funding by over 40%, demonstrating yet again that they know the price of everything, but the value of nothing.
People should be able to trust the Government and employers to take the safety of individuals at work seriously.
This week marked Workers’ Memorial Day which remembers those killed or seriously harmed at work and to raise awareness of the importance of work safety measures. Safety at work...
The Tories have built an economy that works for the few, leaving the rest of us in a deep cost of living crisis. And no matter how many times George Osborne claims that the economy is recovering, we all know that for many this is simply not the case.
Today the Trussell Trust reported that the use of food banks in the UK has risen by a staggering 51% since last year. Nearly 1 million people received emergency food from the Trussell Trust alone. Their Chief Executive Chris Mould said that ‘In the last year we’ve seen things get worse, rather than better, for many people on low-incomes. It’s been extremely tough for a lot of people, with parents not eating properly in order to feed their children and more people than ever experiencing seemingly unfair and harsh benefits sanctions’.
These figures will not shock or surprise many of my constituents - who tell me they are finding it very difficult to put a meal on the table. It is becoming an ongoing struggle to keep up with rising food prices and whilst wages stay stagnant, we are seeing increasing numbers of working households left with no money well before the end of the month.
There are many reasons why people in my constituency have had to turn to food banks for help - including high levels of unemployment, low and stagnant wages and benefit delays – some constituents tell me that they have to survive for eight weeks without any money. In my constituency, one food bank in South Elmsall has given out 796 parcels of food in just five months – feeding approximately 333 individuals, including children.
I believe the number of people in food poverty to be much higher than reported; statistics relating to food poverty are unreliable, the Government does not track the statistics and charities who try to have limited resources. Furthermore, many individuals in food poverty may not be able to afford the transport costs to reach a food bank or may not turn to food banks for help, instead suffering in silence.
However, despite being saddened by so many needing to turn to food banks in my area, I would also like to say that I am proud to see people in my constituency coming together as an even tighter community during these hard times. Lots of people are only too willing to look out for neighbours, operate food banks or donate food at the supermarkets. It really is admirable, but in the 21st century it is a national disgrace how so many people have no choice but to rely on food packages just to scrape by.
I believe, not having the confidence to know you can adequately feed yourself, your family and pay your bills not only affects your physical wellbeing but also social and mental wellbeing. Eating nutritious meals and not having to constantly worry about where your next meal is going to come from should be possible for everyone.
In the UK, a country which has the sixth largest economy in the world, we should not see people going hungry. The Government need to do more and stop disproportionately harming those who are already struggling whilst sticking up for the few at the top. The Government need to wake up and realise there is a real problem here, the prevalence and usage of food banks just shows the levels of poverty that their policies have produced.
Labour would look at the root of the problem; starting with the terribly unfair bedroom tax, unemployment and low wages. Labour would get young people off benefits and into work with a compulsory jobs guarantee, freeze energy bills until 2017, expand free childcare for 3 and 4 year olds and build more homes . Labour would also reverse the deeply unfair £3 billion tax cut for the top one per cent of earners - to drive the deficit down in a fairer way.
Labour will build an economy that works for working people, so we can see an economic recovery for all, not just the few.
The Tories have built an economy that works for the few, leaving the rest of us in a deep cost of living crisis. And no matter how many times George...
In a democracy every person should have an equal voice to express their views and be heard. A small community group should have the same access to decision-makers as a company; a constituent should have the same access as a millionaire.
But this is not the case in Britain. Our democracy is asymmetrical. A local charity campaigning on cancer in my constituency does not have the same access to the political process as the big tobacco companies.
Under the government’s “gagging bill”, now an Act, this asymmetry has been made even worse.
The gagging bill is an outright attack on healthy democracy; it is a cynical attempt to deceive the public by gagging campaigners and charities. My constituents, like so many others, are not falling for it.
I voted against this Act right the way through Parliament as I believe that lobbying is an essential part of our democracy, it allows charities and campaigners to be heard and stand up for the issues they fight for.
I have been contacted by a large number of my constituents asking what Labour would do. We are clear; a Labour government would abolish the gagging Act.
Labour recognise there is a real need for political reform. There is already a widespread sense of alienation from politics; the disillusionment partly stems from a feeling that Britain is governed by a closed circle at the top which excludes the millions of hard-working people who play by the rules but who are struggling to get by.
We need to open up the lobbying world, not legislate to silence charities and campaigners who want to hold the government to account. This is why Labour will repeal the gagging law and legislate for the real reform our politics needs.
Labour, should we win the 2015 election, will make the lobbying industry more transparent by introducing a register of all lobbyists backed by a code of conduct and sanctions, we will make the changes a fairer Britain needs.
In a democracy every person should have an equal voice to express their views and be heard. A small community group should have the same access to decision-makers as a...
Energy bills are up by almost £300 under David Cameron. The “big six” energy companies are seeing their profits soar. Yet, people in my area have to choose whether to heat their home or eat. It is shameful.
Fuel poverty affects 7,000 people in my constituency. Finding it difficult to juggle heating their homes, paying their bills and working in low paid jobs, this government have inflicted a cost of living crisis on ordinary people that I had hoped we would never see again.
The recent launch of a full market investigation into energy companies prices is a clear admission that Britain’s energy market is broken and that radical action is needed.
One of my constituents told me that having a hot bath and heating his home is a luxury he cannot afford every day, most days he is left piling on the layers just to stay warm.
Something needs to be done.
Labour called on the government in 2013 to impose an energy price freeze. David Cameron rejected this Labour proposal, saying it was unworkable. With the energy company SSE recently announcing an energy price freeze David Cameron was clearly wrong, it is now plainly obvious he just did not want to help ordinary people.
It is clear that the Tories stand up for the few at the top not the old lady trying to stay warm in her home. David Cameron has cut tax for people on over £150,000 a year while raising it for the shop-worker who is on a zero-hours contract. This Government will not do anything to address the cost of living crisis and help people out of fuel poverty.
That is why Labour would help with everyday costs in a fair way, to benefit everyone. We would freeze energy prices until 2017 which would save a typical household £120 a year. Labour would also provide 25 hours free childcare per week for 3 and 4 year olds, scrap the unfair and unjust bedroom tax and tackle low paid jobs and zero hours contracts to help get more people back on their feet.
Energy bills are up by almost £300 under David Cameron. The “big six” energy companies are seeing their profits soar. Yet, people in my area have to choose whether to...
Tony Benn lived a long life and was a man born into a highly political background. He met Gandhi and Lloyd George as a young man.
He inherited a peerage when his father died, but rather than taking a privileged seat in the House of Lords, he fought a successful campaign to renounce his title so that he could sit in the House of Commons in order to represent the ordinary working people. Such was his commitment to democracy.
My best memory of him was in an encounter over 30 years ago.
It was in 1981. I was running the campaign in Yorkshire in support of him becoming the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party. There is no doubt that that election campaign against Denis Healey was a seminal moment in British politics.
We decided to take the enormous risk of putting on a meeting in Leeds Town Hall, to be addressed by Tony. It was a risk because the Town Hall is vast. We were not certain whether we would fill the Hall or whether only half a dozen people would turn up making us appear ridiculous.
As it turned out, the meeting was massive with people outside on the Town Hall steps. He held the meeting rapt in attention with his stirring oratory and charismatic personality. Even people who didn’t agree with a word he said came along and afterwards told me that it was a fascinating evening.
But the point of this anecdote is a different one.
Because before the meeting started, he and I met in a small side room in the Town Hall.
Even though the evening was all about him, and it would have been normal to expect him to be preoccupied with what he would say, he spent the whole time asking about Leeds and more particularly about me and my background.
He was at the height of his powers at this time. He was continuously vilified by the establishment who often attacked him personally, rather than challenge his ideas. But he took an interest in me – an ordinary person.
I was a building worker at the time and was passionate about politics but was not a politician. He got out his pipe and then his tape recorder. He then proceeded to record all his questions and my responses.
He was true to the fourth Socialist Sunday School commandment: “Honour good people, be courteous to all, bow down to none.”
That was Tony Benn. A man deeply committed to democracy. To breaking down the barriers in Britain which mean that the privileged, rich and powerful continue rule to the exclusion of the vast majority of our fellow citizens.
I will not forget Tony Benn, his sparkling eyes and ready smile, nor his infinite curiosity in fellow human beings which he showed in that brief encounter in Leeds 33 years ago.
Tony Benn lived a long life and was a man born into a highly political background. He met Gandhi and Lloyd George as a young man. He inherited a peerage...
The Tories like to get their own way.
They also think they can run the NHS like a private business.
And now David Cameron has broken his promise to stop “centrally dictated” closures of A&E and maternity wards with this terrible Care Bill.
The Tory Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt recently attempted to close parts of Lewisham hospital. Lewisham was running a perfectly successful hospital when the Tory attack on the NHS began.
The Trust Special Administrator (TSA) handpicked by Jeremy Hunt was employed to review South London Healthcare. The nearby and successful Lewisham hospital did not come under the remit of this job. However, he nearly caused devastation in his attempt to sell off Lewisham Hospital’s buildings and push patients to use other hospitals which were much, much further away.
These moves were met with extreme opposition from local residents and the government were eventually blocked from closing departments of Lewisham hospital by a High court ruling. The Judge ruled that Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt had acted completely outside of his powers.
So, in the face of opposition by the courts, the Tories are now trying to pass Clause 119 of the Care Bill.
This clause, popularly known as the ‘hospital closure clause’ is extremely worrying. It could see departments, or even entire hospitals close without proper consultation with specialists, consultants, staff or the local community, regardless of whether the hospital is doing well or not.
I have been contacted by many of my constituents expressing their concern over the passing of Clause 119 of this Bill and I would like to assure them all that I will be attending the vote and opposing this Tory power grab.
Amendment 16 (NC16)will secure the right of doctors and patients to be included in decision making and would not allow a Trust Special Administrator to close a department or hospital without consultation, this would at least attempt to balance local and national decision making.
I will vote for the fundamental principles of the NHS. We need to keep our hospitals safe from damage by opposing fast tracked and financially driven closure which occur without even the pretence of proper consultation.
The NHS is simply not safe in the Tories’ hands.
The Tories like to get their own way. They also think they can run the NHS like a private business. And now David Cameron has broken his promise to stop...
On Thursday, an important vote will go ahead in the Commons.
MP’s will be asked to decide whether or not to ban the inhumane, ineffective and tremendously costly badger cull pilot introduced by the Tories.
I have always supported animal rights and as such I will be voting to end the cull.
I know my constituents care deeply about animal rights and I have been contacted by many people who have expressed their abhorrence over the findings that the badger cull pilot was cruel and, ultimately, unsuccessful.
An independent analysis of the badger cull highlighted the outrageous failings of this Tory pilot. The analysis, commissioned by the Government and leaked through the BBC, found that pilot has not achieved its primary aim of reducing the spread of TB and has ended in a tremendously costly failure by the Government.
The cull has not only proven to be ineffective, it was also found to be inhumane. Up to 18% of culled badgers took longer than five minutes to die; this incredible suffering cannot go on.
The Government stipulated that 70 per cent of the badger population should be culled within a six-week period, however, estimates show the cull has slaughtered fewer than 40 percent. It is astounding that reportedly £7.29m of tax payer money has been wasted, with Care for the Wild animal charity estimating it cost £4,121 to cull each badger.
It is likely that the cull has actually increased the risk of bovine TB, by spreading the disease into surrounding areas. This could partly be due to the fact that injured badgers carrying TB, hit but not killed, end up disorientated and may wander in a confused state from their habitat and spread TB to other farms.
The failure of the badger cull clearly demonstrates total Tory incompetence and an unwillingness to listen to the widespread concern from communities, farmers and experts before the pilot began.
The Government need to be pushed to adopt a science-led, evidence-based approach to controlling TB. And there are better ways to stop the spread of TB.
I will be supporting the ban of the badger cull, on behalf of my constituents, to put an end to this money-wasting, ineffective and cruel scheme.
On Thursday, an important vote will go ahead in the Commons. MP’s will be asked to decide whether or not to ban the inhumane, ineffective and tremendously costly badger cull...