GORDON BIRTWISTLE MP: Fighting for support for students after EMA

Gordon Birtwistle

Gordon Birtwistle

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Last week was the first back in Westminster after the recess. I’ve been really busy over the break with casework and visits and the week back in London was equally packed.

On Monday I was pleased to hear more details of Business Secretary Vince Cable’s plans to restrict the export of sodium thiopental, a drug used in lethal injections to execute people in the US. Banning the export of this drug for use in executions abroad is the morally right thing to do and I welcome the move.

On Tuesday I met with the Chartered Institute of Taxation and discussed the Government’s robust attitude to clamping down on tax evasion. I very much welcome the Government’s work to clamp down on tax evasion – it is more important than ever that the wealthiest people in society pay their share. The Government is investing an extra £900m. to do this, providing Revenue and Customs with additional resources to create a dedicated team of investigators to bear down on offshore tax havens and online tax evasion. It is estimated that closing loopholes and ensuring wealthy people pay the full top rate of tax would generate an estimated £7bn a year by 2015.

On Wednesday I had a very positive meeting with Charlie Briggs, the leader of Burnley Council, and Andrew Stunnell, a Lib-Dem minister in the Department for Communities and Local Government, to discuss Burnley’s government funding. The meeting was extremely constructive and the minister has agreed to look at the calculations of the grant given to Burnley.

I also met Secretary of State for Health Andrew Lansley to discuss progress with the campaign to bring back our children’s ward. The preliminary findings of the Independent Review Panel relating to the transfer of the children’s ward to Burnley are due to be announced very soon. The next step would be a full inquiry, where the opponents of the move will be able to put the case for our children’s ward to return.

Throughout last week I was in dialogue with ministers about the future of the Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA). A number of young people have raised their worries with me about this issue, discussions are still ongoing and I have pressed ministers to ensure support remains available for young people who need it. Please be assured I will fight hard for a fair deal for the young people of Burnley and will update you as soon as the finalised proposals are announced.

In the constituency last week, I visited the Issacs Intervention Centre in Burnley, which works with young people who have been excluded from school, and provides them with the one-to-one support they need to get back on track. It was really interesting to talk to staff and students at the centre and I was really impressed by the great work done there.

I also attended the Burnley Air Cadets civic reception on Friday night. The cadets are a highly impressive group of young people who are rightly very proud of the work they do.

On Saturday, I went to a Building Bridges meeting to discuss the future work of the group. Building Bridges has done lots of great inter-faith work in the past decade to bring communities in Burnley together – work which is just as important today as when the group was founded in 2001. I then enjoyed watching Burnley FC play Queens Park Rangers. Despite the bad weather, Burnley did well to get a respectable draw against a team at the top of the division.