During the week I arranged for Danny Alexander, the Government’s Chief Secretary to the Treasury, to visit Burnley’s fantastic manufacturing companies and support the vital role our manufacturing industry is doing to boost our economy.
We visited Aircelle, which over the last three years has doubled its workforce, an advanced aerospace manufacturer making thrust reversers for Rolls-Royce commercial jet engines. I am pleased Aircelle has started taking on graduate technical and craft apprentices.
Next we visited AMS Neve, an advanced manufacturer of professional audio equipment, used in the film, TV, broadcast and music industry. The firm’s audio equipment was recently used in the blockbuster “The King’s Speech”. I was really pleased to hear the firm is also recruiting again.
Finally, we went to VEKA, a world-leading Burnley company in the recycling and production of windows. I was pleased to learn it is busy, even during the downturn of the construction industry. All three companies were extremely positive about the future – I am positive our town’s manufacturing will go from strength to strength.
Last week in Parliament, the Parliamentary Voting and Constituencies Act became law and the referendum date of May 5th was given the green light. For the first time ever the British people will have the chance to get rid of our broken voting system and replace it with the Alternative Vote. This is a really exciting opportunity to clean up politics, something I have been pushing for over many years.
AV would strengthen our current system by making MPs work harder to get elected. MPs would now have to aim to get more than 50% of the vote.
I would encourage people in Burnley to cast your vote for AV and make our voting system fairer.
During the week I was also pleased to welcome Burnley legend Clarke Carlisle to Parliament. Clarke is working with Simon Hughes, the Lib- Dem deputy leader, since meeting on “Question Time” in Burnley, on the replacement for Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA).
Simon has a government job looking at ways to increase access to education and Clarke has been working closely with him on this. The aim is to ensure we have the best system of educational advice, information and support in place to ensure disadvantaged young people gain access to further and higher education. It was great to see Clarke in Parliament and gain his input. I hope he will be a regular visitor while we are working on this issue of higher education.
Later in the week I met David Gauke, the Government Minister responsible for HMRC, to press for action to tackle tax avoidance. £900m. extra is to be invested in cracking down on individuals and companies cheating their tax, which is to be welcomed.
I was very pleased during the week to hear the latest news regarding the Government’s policy on forestry and woodlands in England – that the Government has listened to the public and has shown it is willing to change its decision. I have received lots of correspondence from constituents concerned about the proposals to sell state-owned woodland. I am pleased to say this policy is no longer on the table. The previous government sold off 25,000 acres of public forest with inadequate protection for access and public benefits and, just months before the General Election, had laid out its plans for selling the public forestry estate. If this Government is to be greener, then a different strategy for ensuring access and biodiversity is clearly needed.
Finally last week, I was delighted my researcher in London, Erin Harvey, won three awards, including overall winner, at the Federation of Small Businesses’ Researcher of the Year Awards. Erin has worked tirelessly over the past months to help me fight for Burnley in Parliament and very much deserves this recognition.
GORDON BIRTWISTLE, LIB-DEM MP FOR BURNLEY