BURNLEY MP GORDON BIRTWISTLE: Keeping an eye on inquiry into East Lancs NHS Hospitals Trust

I BEGAN last week being interviewed for a book being written about MPs and Parliament. The author is a young lecturer at a top university in London and has previously published a very informative book on the House of Lords.

Burnley General Hospital. Urgent Care Unit.
Burnley General Hospital. Urgent Care Unit.

The role of an MP is often misunderstood, partly due to the actions of some unscrupulous characters. The interview was a good chance for me to talk about parts of the job I like – meeting constituents and visiting local factories, as well as the parts of the job I find frustrating. For a lot of newer MPs like me, the traditional Parliamentary procedures and old-fashioned way of speaking, as well as the many protocols, can prove tiresome and confusing.

You may recall, I presented a Ten-Minute Rule to the House last year on careers advice in schools for 12-16-year-olds. Unfortunately time ran out in the House before the Bill could get to the second reading but I pledged to continue my quest. One of the points of the Bill was to encourage Ofsted to include careers advice in their school inspections. I was delighted to hear from Skills Minister Matt Hancock last week that, from August, careers advice will be covered by Ofsted! Hopefully this will go some way towards making schools provide a better service to their students.

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I mentioned previously that former Defence Minister Peter Luff is also taking up the careers advice battle and has submitted another Ten-Minute Rule Bill on the issue, specifically relating to STEM subjects. I am supporting this Bill and acting as teller as it goes for its first reading in the House next week.

Matt Hancock, the recently-appointed Minister for Skills, came to address my Apprentices’ All-Party Parliamentary Group last week and it was a fantastic meeting. Matt is young and bright and very supportive of apprentices. A number of young people also attended the meeting and told us about their experience of the apprenticeships they had undertaken. It was a really positive meeting and I left feeling really hopeful we have a fantastic generation of keen and skilled young people to take over the top jobs in our leading manufacturing companies.

Progress at the hospital has really gone up a notch and the steel work is coming on. I am really looking forward to having a better hospital service back in Burnley as I receive far too many complaints about Blackburn. I have been informed that, in light of the terrible practices at Stafford Hospital, an inquiry is being extended into five other Trusts with high death rates, including East Lancs Hospital Trust. I’ve spoken with someone at the Department of Health and the inquiry is being headed up by Sir Bruce Keogh and information is being published by the NHS Commissioning Board. They will be announcing the timescale and terms of reference “shortly” and I will be listening out for further announcements.

The week before last I went to visit Wesco to discuss the aerospace supply chain. They are a major component of the supply chain with a £3m. annual turnover. I discussed the possibilities of them becoming involved in the new centre we hope to have at Samlesbury. Keeping jobs and creating more jobs in Burnley and the North-West is my prerogative and it is great to see Burnley businesses doing so well.

As usual, I had lots of constituency appointments on Friday, including seven separate appointments on Friday morning alone. I saw constituents with a wide variety of issues including benefit problems, housing, local businesses, immigration and bullying in the workplace

As well as the usual street stall on Saturday, we also had an action day. Lots of volunteers came to knock on doors and I enjoyed having a catch-up with many of you and hearing what was on your mind.

I would also like to give a mention to local lad Nick who undertook work experience in the constituency and Westminster offices and has now secured a fantastic job at the House of Commons Library. It’s great to see former interns go on to start bright new futures.