Thanks for taking the time to visit my website. Here you can find out more about all the work I am doing for the people of Stoke-on-Trent North and Kidsgrove.
Continue reading → Add your reaction ShareI’m sure readers are as excited as I am about the Olympic games. As this years European City of Sport Stoke-on-Trent has a unique opportunity to use this year’s games as a springboard to a local legacy of health, fitness and sporting prowess.But the Rio Olympics have also been a rallying point for a wider campaign to tackle one of the issues that I have been campaigning on since my election – the scourge of child poverty and holiday hunger.Child poverty remains a serious issue here in North Staffordshire, as the government’s Index of Multiple Deprivation makes clear. Stoke-on-Trent as a whole is ranked as the 13th most deprived authority out of 326. In one school in my constituency 52% of pupils qualify for free school meals.But this is not just a local issue. A recent survey found that almost three quarters of teachers across the UK have seen pupils coming to school hungry ad over a quarter said they had given food to hungry pupils themselves.This problem only gets worse during the school holidays. A recent report by Kellogg’s found that a third of parents have skipped a meal so that their kids could eat during the school holidays. Seeing our children going hungry is heartbreaking, and it has real consequences for their learning and development.We know that too many children in this country are failing to fulfil their potential simply because they do not have access to decent, nutritious food.We can’t start to narrow this attainment gap until we recognise the gulf in opportunity between our poorest students and the rest. Nor can we expect teachers, even great teachers, to keep a child’s development on track without dealing with these inequalities. We can’t keep pretending that inspiration alone can overcome starvation.It’s heart-breaking to see this level of hunger in our own communities, in one of the richest countries in the world. But the Making Rio Count campaign offers clear goals and fresh opportunities to improve the lives of the poorest.In the years since the London Games the International Development Goals have been agreed by the UN General Assembly and set ambitious targets for all countries, developed and developing, rich or poor. The primary goal is simple: to end hunger in our lifetime.It also challenges all nations, including the UK, to ensure access to safe nutritious and sufficient food all year round, especially for children and young people.Charities and campaigners have been working hard to tackle the awful plight of our most vulnerable children, with organisations such as the Alice Charity working to highlight and alleviate the problem.But this is a national problem and it needs a national solution. We cannot expect charities and community groups to tackle the crisis of child food poverty by themselves, the Government must recognise the problem and support plans to fix it. Making Rio Count is our opportunity to put the issue on the agenda and push the Government to act.Now the games are upon us and the sport and the spectacle will give all of us reason to cheer. But the Olympics has always been more than just a display of athleticism.Its message of struggle and improvement, of being the best that we can be, should inspire all of us - not just the elite athletes among us. And it is an ambition that applies as much to societies as to individuals.So for this year’s games, lets all be inspired to Make Rio Count, and work together to help feed our kids and improve the lives of our young people.
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It was announced today that GE is considering the closure of the Kidsgrove site, which employs 243 local people.
This news is a terrible shock to me and to my constituents, nearly 250 of whom have woken up this morning to find their livelihoods under threat.
I’m extremely concerned that GE has made no effort to notify or consult with anyone before this decision was made. This behaviour shows a total disregard for the concerns of local, loyal employees here in Kidsgrove.
I have been in contact with UNITE, and I will be meeting as soon as possible with local union reps and will be working with them in the days ahead. I have also contacted the Business Secretary to seek additional support for the future of the site and have secured an urgent meeting with GE’s management.
My priority is the future of our community, and the wellbeing of those people whose jobs are affected and their families.
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I am bitterly disappointed that the Government has voted down an amendment to help 3,000 vulnerable child refugees.
We have heard terrifying reports that 10,000 children have already gone missing in Europe since fleeing the warzones in Syria, Libya and elsewhere. These children could be in the hands of traffickers or child abusers, some of them may already be dead.
This amendment was Britain’s opportunity to do something concrete to help the most vulnerable victims of this crisis. It was brought forward by Lord Dubs, who arrived in this country as a refugee himself during the Kindertransport scheme in 1939.
I was in Russia as part of a Defence Select Committee investigation at the time of the vote, however I was paired (an agreement between MPs of opposing parties to not vote in a particular division) to ensure my absence would not effect the vote in any way.
I would like to pay tribute to my colleagues who argued so passionately for Britain to play our part and give these children the security they so desperately need.
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Steel is just the first casualty of this Government’s recklessness. If we do not change course, others will follow.
The crisis engulfing the UK steel industry this week is a disaster for our country and especially for all those people whose livelihoods depend on it. Up to 40,000 jobs are thought to be at risk if Tata Steel goes ahead with plans to halt its entire UK steel production.
To see an industry with such a proud history and of such continued importance to our national interest on its knees is a tragedy. But it is a tragedy of this Government’s own making.
It is now widely reported that the final straw for the firm was the UK Government’s refusal to stand up to China and support the EU attempt to secure higher anti-dumping tariffs. Without these restrictions there is nothing to stop China flooding our country with cheap, shoddily-produced steel, and that is exactly what we are seeing.
How can British enterprise expect to compete fairly when the Government is allowing them to be priced out by Chinese companies which are subsidised by the state and whose costs are kept low by appalling wages and conditions for Chinese workers?
George Osborne’s spineless subservience to China is costing our country dearly and the steel industry will not be the only casualty if things don’t change soon. I’ve spoken repeatedly in Parliament about the threat to our ceramics industry if China is granted Market Economy Status at the end of this year. Yet while the EU Parliament is fighting to secure stronger restrictions on Chinese imports, the UK Government is supporting the bid at the expense of our own industry.
We must change course now to save British industry. The Government must now do whatever is necessary to prevent the collapse of the UK steel industry, by direct intervention if necessary. And we must support the EU’s efforts to create a level playing field with China and halt the unfair trade practices that are putting our economy at risk.
The way that we respond to this crisis may dictate the course of British industry for years to come, and there is so much more than steel at stake.
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Osborne’s budget props up the wealthy on the backs of the most vulnerable.
George Osborne repeated his claim that the Tories were the ‘party of workers’ in his budget announcement yesterday, but for my own constituents in Stoke-on-Trent North and Kidsgrove that claim will ring hollow.
While the increase in the personal tax allowance is welcome, it will provide only limited relief for people struggling to get by on stagnating wages, often in insecure or part-time work.
But the cruellest blow is the decision to axe benefits for the sick and disabled, up to 370,000 of whom stand to lose an average of £3,500 each and every year. This announcement comes just weeks after the Government voted to slash the Disability Support Allowance for thousands of disabled people across the country.
For people suffering from disabilities or long-term sickness this money is not a bonus, it is a lifeline. The additional support that they receive can be the difference between being able to live a full and active life, and being trapped in their own homes. The idea that pushing the most vulnerable ever deeper into poverty can incentivise them to find employment is so divorced from the reality of peoples live it is frightening.
What’s worse is that the money being clawed back from the most vulnerable is then being redirected to provide tax giveaways for the some of the wealthiest in our society. The Resolution Foundation has calculated that 80% of the benefits from these tax cuts will go to the highest 50% of earners, at the expense of people in desperate need of assistance.
Behind the cheap parlour tricks and tax giveaways, this budget only confirms the lamentable record of a chancellor who has consistently failed to achieve even those targets he has set himself. A Government which won an election on the promise of paying down the deficit is set to borrow over £38 billion more than they planned, while growth has been revised down last year, this year and every year of the forecast.
This budget was the culmination of six years of failure under a Tory Chancellor who has put his own political ambition above the prosperity of our country.
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Ruth Smeeth MP used a debate on the UK ceramics industry today to talk about some of the fantastic ceramics companies here in Stoke-on-Trent and to highlight the threat posed to the industry by plans to grant Market Economy Status to China.
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Ruth Smeeth used her first question at PMQs today to challenge David Cameron on the threat posed to our ceramics industry by China's bid for Market Economy Status. Click here to see the video.
The EU and UK are currently debating whether to confer ‘Market Economy Status’ on China, which would prevent meaningful anti-dumping measures against unfair Chinese export practices and state intervention. This could allow China to flood the UK market with cheap, inferior products – a major threat to UK ceramics manufacturers.
The change could result in the loss of 300,000 jobs in EU industries – a third of which are in ceramics – and would be catastrophic for The Potteries.
China currently only meets 1 in 5 of the criteria for MES. Despite this the UK Government currently appears to be supportive of the bid.