Burnley MP Julie Cooper column: Industries up north need support

Whilst much of the headline news concerns Theresa May’s imminent departure and the frenzied  speculation about her likely successor, you could be forgiven for thinking that Tory infighting and Brexit (the two have now become interchangeable) dominate every hour of Parliamentary business but the reality is, thankfully quite different.
Burnley MP Julie CooperBurnley MP Julie Cooper
Burnley MP Julie Cooper

My week began with an important meeting in Westminster with senior representatives from BAE Systems.

This aerospace giant has impressive plants at Samlesbury and Wharton in Lancashire and is a key player in the Lancashire aerospace cluster along with several Burnley based companies.

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Burnley is very much at the cutting edge of the aerospace industry and its success has massive implications for our local economy and for jobs.

Lancashire’s aerospace sector is seeking Government support to ensure future orders. I was pleased to get the opportunity to question Dr Liam Fox, the Secretary of State for International Trade.

The Governments of France and Germany give extensive support to their aerospace companies and it is disappointing to say the least that our Government is not prepared to do the same. It is therefore not surprising that we have slipped below these countries in the export table.

We hear so much talk of the Northern Powerhouse but too often it seems that industries that are important to the North do not get the support that they deserve.

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This week the controversial multi billion pound rail project, HS2 is back in the headlines and there is much debate about the wisdom of continuing with this project.

Whatever the final decision, it is important to note that here is another project that will primarily support improved transport networks between London and Birmingham and is yet more evidence that the great cities of the North are along way down the pecking order when it comes to Government investment in infrastructure.

On Tuesday the Government made an important and very welcome statement on the subject of refuges for victims of domestic violence.

For the first time ever, councils across the country will be legally required to provide vital life-saving support in secure accommodation for survivors of domestic abuse and their children – ensuring need in their local area is met.

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For four years I have been pestering Government Ministers for support for Burnley’s excellent refuge facilities, which despite being heavily oversubscribed are constantly faced with the threat of closure.

Lancashire County Council will now have a legal duty to provide refuge accommodation for all victim of domestic abuse. It is not yet clear though, that the funding to cover this has been allocated and no doubt that will be the next battle but at least it is a step in the right direction.

As part of my work in the Labour health team I meet regularly with health professionals, organisations that support wider health and well-being and patient groups.

This week I met with ophthalmologists, GPs, representatives of the deaf and the National Autism Association.

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GPs organisations this week reported that for the first time in 50 years the number of GPs per head of population has fallen. This is a very worrying trend that I have raised with the Government over and over again.

The fact is that GPs are under immense pressure in the face of growing demand and many are choosing to leave the profession and this is making it very difficult for patients to get appointments.

We urgently need to train more GPs and support the retention of those who are already in service.

I am pleased that Burnley General Hospital is now a Teaching Hospital and I am delighted that the University of Central Lancashire is offering medical courses at its Burnley Campus.

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On Wednesday I met the End Child Poverty action group to discuss the worsening poverty levels among children in Burnley and Padiham.

The most recent figure published just last week showed that close to nine thousand children in our town are growing up in poverty.

This is virtually half of the child population and despite the Government’s claims that we now have a strong economy, more and more of our children are losing out. It is also important to stress that the two thirds of these children live in working families.

There has been a fall in unemployment but the problem arises because too many people are employed on what amounts to poverty pay.

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Teachers across the constituency regularly report children arriving at school hungry and poorly clad. In the fifth richest country in the world this is a national disgrace and I will challenge the Government at every opportunity.

My next MP’s Surgery will be on 25th May from 10am – noon at my office at Tesco Extra in Burnley.

No appointments are necessary as people will be seen on a first come first served basis.

Alternatively you can email me on [email protected] or phone my constituency office on 01282 425744.