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7 April 2017

Following another busy few weeks in Parliament, Easter Recess has now started.

Due to Easter Saturday falling on the 3rd Saturday in April, I have re-arranged my second set of surgeries in April. My surgeries on the third Friday of the month will now be on 21 April, and the surgeries on the third Saturday of the month will be on 22 April.

Thank you for all your replies to my last email.

In the constituency/locally

Shop Appy

I was very pleased to have the opportunity to meet Jackie Mulligan, who has launched an innovative new shopping service, ShopAppy. Jackie Mulligan launched ShopAppy in November 2016 and aims to provide shoppers with an alternative to large supermarkets whilst benefiting local small businesses. It has since expanded to cover Shipley and Ilkley. As online supermarket shopping has become increasingly popular, ShopAppy allows small independent shops to list their goods on one central online marketplace. Customers can then choose from all of the products listed by the various shops and pay for them online. The groceries are then taken by the shops to one central location and are available for collection by the customer. You can find more info here: https://shopappy.com/

Visit to Lawnswood School

I joined Liberal Democrat peer Lord Oates of Denby Grange in giving a presentation on the law-making process to students at Lawnswood School. I began by explaining to the large group of Law, Sociology, and Politics students the various ways that bills can be introduced, and how they subsequently become law, using examples that I was involved in whilst part of the coalition government, such as the successful amendment to the Small Business, Enterprise & Employment Act in 2014. Lord Oates then explained the relationship that the House of Lords has with the House of Commons, using the recent legislation allowing Theresa May to trigger Article 50 as an example, before taking questions and answers.

Headingley Stadium

I had recently highlighted the very real need to reach an agreed plan to ensure the development of Headingley stadium, to secure test cricket status. Leeds Rhinos Chief Executive, Gary Hetherington, had expressed concerns that if the Headingley Stadium redevelopment did not go ahead, it could spell the end of a once in a century opportunity. Many others also expressed this concern, including former England captain, Michael Vaughan, as the cost of losing test cricket status to Leeds would be enormous, costing the city millions of pounds in lost revenue. I am very pleased that following these calls, a funding agreement for the redevelopment of Headingley Carnegie Stadium has been supported in principle by Leeds City Council, and will not involve the use of public funds. I congratulate all involved who have been involved with bringing forward this plan. The new proposals will be subject to approval at Leeds City Council Executive Board, and will be considered in mid-April whilst the details of the arrangement are also finalised.

Visit for Weidmann Whiteley

I visited local paper mill Weidmann Whiteley in Pool to learn more about their investment plans and discuss the opportunities and challenges that they are facing as a business. I was taken on a tour of their site, learning more about their paper production techniques and a large forthcoming investment of £400,000 in their main paper making machine, which will allow the company to increase and expand production. We also discussed the opportunities and challenges facing the company following the vote to leave the European Union. Weidmann Whiteley export a large proportion of their products to the continent.

Visit to the Yorkshire Water Treatment Works to meet Lighthouse School interns

I was pleased to join the Lighthouse School in their visit to Yorkshire Water's Headingley Treatment Works in Weetwood as part of National Autism Awareness Week. Yorkshire Water is part way through a yearlong internship programme for students with an autistic spectrum condition. The interns are from the Lighthouse school in Cookridge, which is a school for young people aged 11 to 19 with an autistic spectrum condition or related condition. Parents of children with these conditions set up Lighthouse School, which is Yorkshire's first special free school, with the backing of the Department of Education. During my visit with the school, pupils learned more about the technical side of Yorkshire Water's business. They enjoyed a tour of the works, which supplies clean safe drinking water to the whole of Leeds, and had a chat about the roles they are doing at Yorkshire Water, which include IT, Finance, and Payroll.

In Westminster

Withdrawal from EU Bill

Article 50 was triggered on March 29th and we have now entered in to a period of negations which will define the deal that we get from the EU. It is now crucial that these negotiations are scrutinised, that it is always checked that the Government are looking to achieve the best, and fairest, deal for all of us. The Liberal Democrats will continue to campaign against a 'Hard Brexit' which will make us isolationist and damage our economy.

Young People in Work

I asked Ministers in the Department for Work and Pensions about research that shows that the forthcoming apprenticeship levy will make the north-south divide worse, because investment will be focused on the south-east, not where it is needed, in the north.

National Strategy for Rare Diseases

I raised concerns with Ministers about the Government's proposed UK Strategy for Rare Diseases. All four nations in the UK agreed to implement the Strategy by 2020. The Departments of Health in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all have development implementation plans, however the Department of Health in England has not.

Drugs for rare diseases threatened by new funding cap

I raised concerns about the recent announcement on capping NHS drug prices, at £20 million pounds for each of the first three years, will influence implementation, and will have a major impact on drugs for muscular dystrophy and other rare diseases. I laid down an EDM, no. 1138, which calls on the Government to remove the arbitrary £20 million pound cap, to look at effectiveness of a drug, as well as cost, when evaluating its sustainability and to guarantee that no drug currently being given to patients will be taken away, should it go above the cap figure.

Breathing Space Scheme

I was pleased to have the opportunity speak in the Westminster Hall debate, in support of the Breathing Space campaign, backed by the Children's Society, highlighting the terrible impact that debt can have on families and children. I particularly wanted to make the point that a child's mental health can suffer dramatically through the stress of being in an indebted family. This can lead to them not progressing in school and can therefore have a life-long impact. I made particular mention of the wonderful volunteers, in Leeds and nationally, who not only run the scheme but work hard to raise awareness of the plight of families facing crippling debt.

Neighbourhood Planning

Too often Neighbourhood Plans are ignored by developers and councils. Speculative development applications are allowed, whilst local campaigning groups are told that they cannot go through the Neighbourhood Planning process unless they agree with every decision that is made. This has been seen locally in places like Aireborough where Aireborough Neigbournhood Forum have been frustrated in their efforts to improve the area and the community.

At last, an end to the absurd pubs planning loopholes !

After many, many years of campaigning, I was delighted that legislation was finally passed which will stop the predatory buying and converting of pubs by supermarkets, without the need for planning permission. I put the first amendment on this in the Neighbourhood Planning Bill last year, when it was being debated in the Commons. As far back as 2011 I was campaigning on the same issue when I attempted to amend the 2011 Localism Bill. This is a momentous victory and will protect pubs up and down the country. However, I am still asking the Minister, Gavin Barwell MP, to put in place a moratorium which will stop shops hoovering up properties before the legislation comes in to force in the summer.

State of Mind campaign meeting

I attend a wonderful presentation by the State of Mind group. State of Mind was established in 2011 with the aim of improving the mental health, wellbeing and working life of rugby league players and communities. The campaign has helped tackle the stigma that is often attached to mental health issues, as well as signposting individuals to support, to make it easier for people to get the right help. Mental health in sport is a crucial issue and I will continue to support campaigns and groups that work to better the situation.

White Ribbon Group meeting on the Istanbul Convention

I was delighted to attend a meeting of the White Ribbon APPG and meet with members of the group who managed to bring into existence the Istanbul Convention on domestic violence. White Ribbon continues to work with men and in sport to combat domestic violence. The convention came into force on August 1st 2014 with an aim "to end with the impunity of perpetrators". The convention is the first to set out a legal framework for the prevention of violence against women. It was a real honour to meet with people who had campaigned for the Convention and I left genuinely inspired about the work that is being done and what we can do going forwards.

No Fault Divorce - Government will Review

I have welcomed the Government's decision to review the law regarding no-fault divorce. I have been a long standing supporter of the concept which removes the need to show wrongdoing from either side. This allows for a smoother and less acrimonious divorce to go ahead.

Free Sanitary Product Provision for Girls from Low-Income Families

The Government has announced that money from the Tampon Tax Fund will be used to support charities working with disadvantaged women and girls across the country. Seventy organisations will share £12 million. I have campaigned for the free provision of sanitary products in schools to girls from low-income households, but the help announced by the Government still falls far short of a proper solution to the problem. The Education Secretary also wrote to me saying that schools have their own budgets and it's for them to decide whether to make this provision but I do not think that is good enough. This is a basic provision, not something that a school should have to agonise over.

This week's question:

I understand that following audits, many cities in the UK have found that they have few, if any, statues of famous women. Manchester are now building a statue of Emily Pankhurst, Leicester are building a statue of Alice Hawkins, and a statue of Millicent Fawcett is being erected in Parliament Square.

I would be very interested to hear your views as to which women from Leeds would be deserving of such a statue.

Best wishes

Greg