Burnley MP defends 'education' question to Boris Johnson during PMQs
Burnley MP Antony Higginbotham has been criticised for not holding the Prime Minister to account over the controversial lockdown Downing Street garden party, despite asking a question at today's PMQs.
Burnley's Tory MP tabled a question to Boris Johnson during Prime Minister's Questions in the Commons today, but this regarded the question of "levelling up" education in the borough.
The Prime Minister is coming under intense scrutiny folowing revelations that he attended a garden party in the garden of Number 10 in May, 2020, at a time when the public were asked not to meet during the first lockdown.
Burnley Council leader, Labour's Coun. Afrasiab Anwar accused Mr Higginbotham of ignoring his constituents' concerns by not raising the issue, and instead asking a question on eudcation.
Coun. Anwar said: "In May 2020 when people in Burnley and Padiham were following the rules, the Prime Minister was breaking them.
"There were many people in Burnley and Padiham who lost loved ones and couldn't attend their funerals or be with them during their final moments. The Muslim community were told they would not be allowed to celebrate Eid with their families with just a few hours notice. They followed the rules because it was the right thing to do.
"The MP had the opportunity to represent his constituents at PMQs today, like he so often claims to, instead he chose to ignore what was going on around him. He has let down the people of Burnley and Padiham."
Burnley's MP Antony Higginbotham asked the Prime Minister to continue working with him to improve opportunities available within the borough, citing the important role that education plays in making sure people have the opportunities they need to succeed in life.
Responding to Coun. Anwar's criticism this afternoon, Mr Higginbotham said he was "angry and frustrated" about the garden party.
He added: “Like all residents I am angry, frustrated and disappointed at what has come to light about events in Downing Street in May 2020.
"For almost two years we have all been making sacrifices; unable to grieve together, celebrate together or even see each other. None of us were exempt and whilst it was incredibly difficult, we all understood why it was necessary. As residents would expect, I will be making this view known to those in Government.
"However an opportunity to ask a question in PMQs is few and far between and so using it to focus on the latest news surrounding the Prime Minister’s conduct did not feel appropriate given the many questions he was asked on this subject.
"I focused on an important matter for Burnley and Padiham – increasing the opportunities available to residents through improved educational facilities. And gained a Government commitment to keep driving up standards and opportunity here in our borough so that the skills and education we are providing to our young people are fit for the 21st century”.
Speaking in the Chamber, Mr Higginbotham MP had earlier said: “Education is one of the biggest factors when it comes to Levelling Up. It is what ensures that people right across the country have access to the same opportunities and is a key part of my mission to transform lives in Burnley and Padiham.
"With that in mind would the Prime Minister work with me to ensure Burnley becomes the best place to study – whether you’re in primary and secondary school, looking for an apprenticeship in advanced engineering, or undertaking a degree in cyber security”?
Responding, Mr Johnson said: “Yes, I thank my honourable friend. We’re investing in education up and down the country. And I’m delighted that Burnley College was part of a successful proposal to become an Institute of Technology and that Burnley is home to the growing University of Central Lancashire campus, making it a fantastic place to study in Lancashire”.
"As part of the Lancashire Institute of Technology Burnley College is set to receive Government funding of £2.2m. to enable investment in new equipment and facilities. Courses available will include those relating to energy, advanced manufacturing and construction. The new Institute will join 12 that have already been established in areas including London and Birmingham."