Westminster Week

Gordon Birtwistle
Gordon Birtwistle

Once again, last week was busy and interesting – speaking with lots of people and families in Burnley, standing up for Burnley in Parliament, and ending the week at the Lib-Dem conference, where our members called for tough action on bankers and bonuses, something I strongly support.

Embassies need to drum up trade

Manufacturing, engineering and exports are vital to our future – particularly in Burnley which is a town built on these foundations. One issue I have been battling with this week in Parliament is the need to drum up trade and jobs for British companies like our fantastic local manufacturers in Burnley and the role of British Embassies across the globe in doing this. Embassies could be doing so much more than they are in creating trade and jobs for British firms, and on Monday I had a very positive meeting with the Minister for Trade, Lord Green, who has promised action on this.

If manufacturing is to thrive, then we need highly skilled employees. One issue that firms in Burnley raise with me over and over again, is the need for many more highly skilled staff. This is why apprenticeships are so important, and this week I spoke at the Apprentice Awards in Coventry, to celebrate the brilliant work being done across the country by apprentices, in a wide range of different roles from engineering to business administration and agriculture to IT.

I’ve welcomed the Government’s commitment to and investment in apprenticeships, as they really are a fantastic option for many of our young people. At a recent Burnley College event it was wonderful to see dozens of companies meet with scores of young people who wish to take up apprenticeships. I would encourage young people to give an apprenticeship a go.

Raising Your Game

I was shocked to find out that 23% of young people in prison in the UK having a learning difficulty or disability. I discovered this statistic at an event this week organised by Raising Your Game, a fantastic project which aims to help young people with a communication difficulty or learning disability, to support them and reduce their risk of offending. The young people supported by this excellent initiative learn new skills, as well as developing confidence and self-esteem and I was really impressed by the work they do.

Deerplay Children’s Ward

It was the Lib-Dem conference this week, where, unlike the other parties, our members make policy. Conference was really positive, and amongst other things they called for tough action on bankers and bonuses. At conference I continued our efforts on two crucial local issues: the Deerplay Children’s Ward and Burnley Bridge Business Park.

I met with Nick Clegg on Saturday to press for the return of our Children’s Ward to Burnley. He is speaking with Andrew Lansley, the Secretary of State for Health, so watch this space for further updates.

Burnley Bridge

I also had a very positive meeting with Vince Cable, the Secretary of State for Business, about our work on Burnley Bridge Business Park – an initiative which could provide up to 1,500 jobs and which would be a major boost for our town.

In April, the new financial year starts, and with it, three changes which you may not be aware of: an increase in the threshold by which you pay tax, the very poorest being taken out of tax altogether, and reforms to the state pension. Come April, the tax threshold will increase by £1,000, meaning that 880,000 low earners will be taken out of paying tax completely. This threshold will increase each year of the Parliament until it reaches £10,000. Another welcome change is the restoration of the link between pensions and earnings, something which was scrapped by Margaret Thatcher. The annual increase in the state pension will be protected by a “triple lock” – the rise will be in line with earnings, prices or a 2.5% increase, whichever is the greater.