GORDON BIRTWISTLE MP: Apprentices’ group is making good progress

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During the week in Westminster I went to a meeting of the new Parliamentary group which we have set up and I now chair: the All Party Parliamentary Group on Apprenticeships.

As someone who started their career as an engineering apprentice, I know the value of the vocational training offered by high quality apprenticeships. Our meeting was really positive, with excellent attendance and a great deal of interest from MPs and outside organisations. We shared lots of excellent examples of high-quality apprenticeships taking place across the country, and agreed to take evidence from big companies employing apprentices in the UK.

I had a very positive meeting with the Federation of Small Businesses, who confirmed that the mood in manufacturing is very positive, with the mood in retail and finance less so. They agreed with the actions being taken by the Government, separating banks’ high street and investment arms.

Another interesting meeting was with the Chief Executive of Royal Mail, Moya Green, to discuss efforts being made by Royal Mail to ensure this iconic, well-loved British business, which everyone wants to see succeed, has a successful future. She suggested I should spend a day out with local post office staff, to see firsthand the hard work and logistics involved with getting the post delivered ... and this is something I am really looking forward to.

Thursday was the House of Commons debate on Libor, the inter-bank lending rate. I have to say, the debate was the worst I have experienced since becoming an MP. Members of both parties were hurling abuse at each other – really not the way to discuss such an important issue. Banking scandals continue to rock Westminster and it is high time some of Vince Cable’s very sensible suggestions to control and break up the banks are implemented.

BACK in the constituency on Friday morning, I had a very positive meeting about the new 600-place University Technical College which is being built in our Weavers’ Triangle.

If you have been on Trafalgar Street you will no doubt have seen work starting on this exciting project. I am extremely proud that 18 months of effort has paid off, and we have succeeded in getting East Lancashire’s first UTC in Burnley – fantastic news for our young people who will be able to access high-quality engineering and construction training. I have always believed Burnley is the perfect place for a University Technical College – we make things in Burnley, and make them incredibly well. The effort will be worth it when we see young men and women from Burnley take the first steps on the career ladder in engineering and construction.

Then, after a number of constituent appointments, I met with the North West Ambulance Service to discuss the fantastic work ambulance staff do locally, dealing with a vast number of emergency calls. I am looking forward to spending a day with ambulance staff, to see first hand the work they do.

I attended Coun. Tony Lambert’s funeral, to pay my respects to this very well-respected councillor with a record of many years of public service to the people of Burnley. He will be very much missed.

I had a very busy drop-in advice surgery in Sainsbury’s cafe, and then, on Saturday morning, I did my regular street advice stall in Burnley town centre, with Anne Kelly, councillor for Briercliffe ward. The sun shone bright and it was great to speak with so many local residents ... thank you to everyone who came to see me. I am there most Saturdays, weather permitting, so do come and have a chat.

As always, please do get in touch with me or my office if we can help you with any problem, large or small. We’ll do our best to help. As always, please do not hesitate to get in touch if there are any issues that you would like to bring to my attention – contact details below.