It's been a busy seven days.
First, we had an important victory in Parliament on the bedroom tax on Friday 5 September. Despite Government opposition, we voted through a proposed Bill which would lessen some of the impact of this terribly unfair tax. Then it was back up to Leeds to attend a meeting of the Girl Guides Senior Section who meet in Wrangthorn Church Hall in Hyde Park. There were lots of questions and an excellent discussion.
On Saturday, it was busy surgeries in Middleton and Beeston, followed by our Labour Party garden party. We were full of good cheer despite a touch of moisture – well actually it was heavy rain – so we stood under cover and had a great time.
I have received representations from the residents of the Whitfields in Hunslet about the proposed route of the Trolleybus scheme and the effect it will have on this long pedestrianised street. I have raised this issue with the NGT team before and I will do so again to see whether another route is still possible. The scheme is currently being looked at by a public inquiry and it will be for the Inspector to decide whether it is given the go-ahead.
I support the trolleybus scheme overall. There is no room for any more roads in the centre of Leeds and congestion is a real problem. Leeds aspires to be a major city and if you look around other cities of comparable size elsewhere in the United Kingdom and in Europe, almost all of them have some form of rapid transit system. We don’t, and I think that will be to the long-term economic disadvantage of the city and our ability to create jobs.
On Thursday I was in Scotland to support the No Thanks campaign in the Scottish Referendum. It is, of course, a decision for the people of Scotland, but the result will affect us too and we are entitled to have a view. Mine is that it would be a great mistake to break up such a successful partnership, which has benefitted both Scotland and England, and it would do nothing to advance the cause of social justice across the UK. We all gain from the solidarity that comes with being part of something bigger; unity is strength.
Mind you, with more powers now on offer to Scotland, the case for devolving power in England is now overwhelming, so expect to hear more about it once the result is known.
Today it was back to Westminster to vote in favour of a Bill that will enshrine in law the UK’s commitment to a level of spending (0.7% of national income) to help the poorest countries in the world. As a former International Development Secretary, I know what a difference British aid makes to getting children into school and stopping them from dying of preventable diseases. Gordon Brown, fresh from his efforts on referendum, made a passionate and moving speech.
And finally, tomorrow I will be out knocking on doors and talking to residents in Burmantofts and Richmond Hill. Hope to see you.