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CONTENTS

The Tories failed budget
Brexit:Triggering Article 50
No to PIP cuts
Cuts to Oldham's school budget
Constituency Update

Shadow Work and Pensions Update
Burnham for Mayor - The strong and experienced voice for Greater Manchester
Parliamentary Business
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News from
Debbie Abrahams MP

For Oldham East and Saddleworth

March 2017

fDear <<First Name>> <<Last Name>>

This is the March edition of my e-newsletter. 

This edition contains information on my 'No to PIP cuts' campaign, the Budget, constituency and parliamentary updates. 

For more regular news you can like my page on Facebook, follow me on twitter  or visit my website

Debbie Abrahams MP
The Tories failed budget
Theresa May’s government is in disarray after having to take a humiliating U-turn on raising National Insurance (NI) for the self-employed, just seven days after the Budget.

The Chancellor’s decision to raise National Insurance for the self-employed put unnecessary pressure on 4,700 people in my constituency and 4.8 million people across the UK as a whole. So it’s good news that the Government listened to Labour and business groups like the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), when we said it was wrong to go ahead with an unfair £2bn tax rise on low and middle earners.  

I set up Labour’s Self-Employment Commission last November and on 30th March held a Self-Employment Summit with the FSB and others to scope out the work that has to be done to support the growing numbers of self-employed workers (4.8m), including looking at how to protect them when they become ill or injured, as well as tackling ‘bogus’ self-employment where some unscrupulous employers shirk their responsibilities. I have a self-employed constituent working in the construction industry who was worried about taking time off when he had a hernia! Read more on the u-turn here.

Governing is about choices. Labour will make different choices, through a fair taxation system where those who can afford to pay their fair share, introducing a Real Living Wage of £10 per hour making sure work always pays, reviving our NHS and care system, and transforming our social security system, so that our NHS, care and social security support is there for any one of us in our time of need. Read more here

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Brexit: Triggering Article 50
This week, Theresa May has set out Britain’s principles and objectives for the Article 50 talks in a letter to European Council president, Donald Tusk. The six-page letter gave formal notification the UK is leaving the European Union. It then lays down Britain’s key demands for the negotiations. 

They include our future trading relationship, security cooperation and protecting the rights of UK citizens living in the EU. It sets out 7 principles for the negotiations which reflect the 6 ‘tests’ Labour set for the Government on the negotiations. Most alarming though is the Government saying that they will decide ‘where it is appropriate’ to transpose EU law and protections into UK law. 

Labour will not allow the costs of exit to be borne by working people and their families – we will fight for the best possible Brexit deal for the British people. We will fight to ensure workers’ rights and protections are secured, and for the Government to deliver ‘the exact same benefits’ (David Davis’ words) as tariff-free access to the Single market and customs union. We cannot allow British jobs to be jeopardised by a Tory chaotic Brexit. 

Labour are committed to setting up a national investment bank and regional development banks to help unlock £500bn of investment so that no community is left behind. Britain must ensure European Investment Bank access is maintained during Brexit and that European structural funds are properly compensated. As the Government start the Brexit process, we will challenge them at every stage to defend & protect our shared rights and values. 

NO to PIP cuts
As Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, I have been working to oppose the Government’s emergency PIP regulations since they were sneaked out by negative statutory instrument on 23rd February. 

Worryingly, this type of legislation can become law without a debate or a vote in Parliament. The new regulations in effect overturn the rulings of two tribunals that say it should expand the reach of Personal Independence Payments (PIP) to include 164,000 people with such debilitating mental health conditions that they are unable to leave their homes unaccompanied. 

Despite over 185,000 people signing a 38 degrees petition within a week, huge support from MPs and this issue being raised in Urgent Questions, Points of Order, Work and Pensions Questions, Prime Minister’s Questions, Business Questions and an Early Day Motion, the Government has failed to schedule a debate before the new regulations come into force.

To try and address this I applied for and was granted an emergency debate by Mr Speaker on 29th March. It was clear from contributions by MPs from all parties that there was a great deal of anger about the Government’s decision to shift the goalposts on PIP assessment rules. As I explained in my speech, the Government has now hastily scheduled a debate and vote for Wednesday 19th April. Even if we win the vote then, without your support we may not be able to overturn these changes to PIP support. Please WRITE TO THE PRIME MINISTER ASKING HER TO THINK AGAIN –remind her of the support she said she would provide to those ‘who may not have physical injuries [from the Westminster attacks] but may need other support’. 

The vote came just a day before the Government published the Second Independent Review by Paul Gray into PIP Assessments. It is extremely worrying, although not surprising given claimants’ experiences, that the Review finds there is a lack of public trust in the fairness and consistency of PIP decisions. The Government must now take speedy and effective action to overhaul the PIP assessment process, including revoking the emergency PIP regulations discriminating against people with mental health conditions, reviewing the contracts of private assessment providers and ensuring a ‘get it right first time’ approach to assessments. Read more 
here.
Cuts to Oldham's School budget
I am deeply disappointed with the reply from a Government minister to my letter asking about cuts in funding for schools across Oldham.

In May 2016 I met with Schools Minister Nick Gibb MP, alongside my colleagues, Jim McMahon MP and Angela Rayner MP, to discuss the many challenges facing schools in Oldham and the findings of the Oldham Education Commission.  But since then the Government has made proposals to change the school Funding Formula.

The new formula will see income per pupil in Oldham East and Saddleworth, for example, cut by a massive £490 per pupil by 2019/20. In my letter to Ms Greening I pointed that there will be an 8% cut in per pupil spending by 2019-20 according to the National Audit Office, the same figure given by the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies.

Unfortunately, the response I received to my letter was deeply disappointing and did absolutely nothing to address the specific concerns I raised about the effect of the cuts on schools in Oldham. In fact, I would go so far as to say it was a non-reply, reply. I believe that every child deserves the best possible start in life, and that an excellent education is fundamental to this. These unashamed Tory cuts to schools’ budget will mean that, for many children, this is simply not possible. Read more here

                   

Constituency Update
Alongside my regular constituency surgeries, it's been a busy time in the constituency. 

Lat week, I joined a community event organised by Oldham Mosque Council where we remembered the victims of the horrific attacks at Westminster and all those affected by it. We were joined by the Interfaith Form, local community groups and Greater Manchester Police. I was actually in the Chamber of the House of Commons leading a debate when I heard a siren go. We were then locked in the Chamber while the Police made sure the site was safe.

I want to say thank you and show my solidarity and support for the Police and all the emergency services. Their actions on a daily basis are nothing short of heroic. I will be eternally grateful to PC Keith Palmer who gave his life protecting us all, our way of life, our values and beliefs. He was a lovely man always smiling and cheerful when you saw him. I will always remember him. Read more here.


I recently met with with local residents in Saddleworth about the the draft Greater Manchester Spatial Framework proposals. I want to thank Greenfield and Grasscroft Residents association and Dovestones and Chew Valley action group for organising the meeting. I have also met with with members of Save Shaw Greenbelt as well as Keep Cowlishaw Green and I look forward to continuing our dialogue. As you maybe aware I have raised my concerns about the draft Greater Manchester Spatial Framework and you can read my response to the Greater Manchester Combined Authority here.

Oldham Labour's Women's Group organised another inspiring International Women's Day Event at Oldham Library earlier this month. The day focused on Annie Kenney, a cotton mill worker from Springhead who became a national leader of the suffragette campaign. We also showed our support for a statue in Parliament Square, Oldham to honour Annie.  A committee has been formed for the project chaired by, Jim McMahon MP, with myself and Angela Rayner MP serving as patrons and Cllr Jean Stretton as vice-chair person To find out more about the project and to donate to the fund click here.


 

Shadow Work and Pensions update
As ever, there has been a great deal of work in Parliament particularly in my role as Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary.

My colleague, Margaret Greenwoood MP launched Labour’s National Conversation about Child Poverty and Life Chances in Wirral on Friday 3rd March. Both Margaret and I spoke at the event which was attended by a wide range of people from the area including local Councillors, representatives from voluntary and community organisations, the NHS, the police, local schools and churches. It is the first in a series of small group discussions, going across the country, where participants have the opportunity to contribute their views on the impact on children of growing up in poverty, what the causes of child poverty are and what should be done to tackle it. As Margaret said, the aim of the Labour’s campaign is to raise awareness of child poverty as an issue of national importance and to develop a dialogue with individuals and organisations about what needs to be done to reduce it. Read more here.


I wrote to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions calling on him to rethink plans to cut social security support for bereaved families. According to the Childhood Bereavement Network the reformed payment, known as the Bereavement Support Payment, will see 91% of families supported for a shorter time than under the current system. 75% of families will also be worse off in cash terms. Organisations like the Childhood Bereavement Network have also raised serious concerns about the changes, particularly that instead of parents receiving support until their youngest child leaves school – or for a maximum period of 20 years – they will receive financial help for just 18 months. I have called on the Government to scrap the reforms, and have promised a review into social security provision for bereaved families. Read more here.

Last month, I spoke for Labour on a debate on intergenerational fairness and pensions. 
It is clear that many young people are facing much more difficult times than people of my generation. Their student debts will be around their necks for a long while, and many are not in a position to buy their own homes. Over the course of their retirement, those in their 40s will be £13,000 worse off than otherwise, those in their 30s will be £17,000 worse off, and those in their 20s will be £20,000 worse off. A continued above-inflation rise will not only benefit those who are retiring now, but will be enjoyed by generations who are to retire. That is one of the central reasons for Labour’s commitment to maintaining the triple lock beyond 2020. We differ from the Government in that regard, but underpinning our decision is the issue of inequalities within generations. We must not trade off the inequality of one generation against the poverty of another. Read more here.


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Burnham for Mayor - The strong, experienced voice for Greater Manchester
I was delighted to be joined by Andy Burnham, Labour's candidate for Greater Manchester Mayor to a visit to Positive Steps. Having a leading work and skills provider like Positive Steps on my doorstep is a great help. I was very keen to share their experience with Andy who has great plans for improving the educational and career prospects for young people as part of his manifesto including a UCAS style apprenticeship scheme. You can read 'Our Manifesto'. a manifesto written for the people of Greater Manchester, by the people of Greater Manchester here.

And don't forget you can vote in the Greater Manchester Mayoral elections on 4th May 2017. Look out for your polling cards which should be arriving soon.


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Parliamentary business
As a member of the Shadow Cabinet, I am more restricted in what I can raise on the floor of the House. However, I have had a number of meetings in Parliament in recent weeks.

I am greatly concerned with the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s (EHRC) decision to sack 10 staff members due to budget cuts on 9 February 2017 via email and with only one day's notice. EHRC staff have taken part in several days of strike action in recent months against compulsory redundancies and budget cuts within the Commission. As I was contacted by a constituent whose job was affected by these cuts to the EHRC, I showed my support by attending the EHRC strike outside Parliament. The EHRC was established to help eliminate discrimination, reduce inequality and protect human rights in the UK. It is only right that the Government intervenes and reinstates all sacked staff members and properly funds the EHRC.

I met with pupils from Clarksfield Primary School on their trip to the House of Commons. The pupils had a tour of Parliament and grilled me with a tough Question and Answer session! I always look forward to meeting pupils at Parliament and in schools and will continue to do this on a regular basis. 

To read all my contributions in Parliament click here.
 

ADVICE SURGERY DETAILS

If you live in Oldham East and Saddleworth and would like to attend one of my surgeries to discuss personal cases regarding housing, immigration, social security or other matters please call the Oldham office on 0161 624 4248 to book an appointment.

PLEASE NOTE ALL SURGERIES ARE BY APPOINTMENT ONLY.

My next advice surgeries are on:

Friday 31 March 2017; 5.00pm - 6.00pm, Oldham town centre

Saturday 1 April 2017; 10:00am - 11:00am, Shaw 

Friday 21 April  2017; 5.00pm - 6.00pm, Oldham town centre

Saturday 22 April 2017; 10:00am - 11:00am, Lees


If you have an urgent enquiry, please send an e-mail, including your name, address contact number and details of the issue you are e-mailing about.
Meetings and Events

Some of the events I've been involved in this month have included:

1 Mar - Met with PCS Union members about staff cuts to the Equality and Human Rights Commission 

3 Mar- Spoke at the launch of Labour's Child Poverty and Life Chances Commission 

3 Mar - Chaired a follow up joint traffic meeting with Denshaw residents and Highway's agencies 

3 Mar - Met with constituents at my advice surgery in Oldham town centre

4 Mar - Met with constituents at my advice surgery in Lees

4 Mar - Spoke at the Oldham Mosque Council event on Saving a Generation

7 Mar - Led an Urgent Question on Housing Benefit Cuts for 18-21 year olds

8 Mar - on the Front Bench for the Spring Budget in Parliament followed by interviews with BBC and Sky News

9 Mar- Chaired the Disability Equality Roadshow in Norwich

10 Mar - Panellist on BBC Radio 4 Any Questions

11 Mar - Met with constituents in Waterhead as part of my regular door knocking session with local councillors, Cllr Riaz Ahmed, Cllr Peter Dean, and Cllr Vita Price.

11 Mar - Spoke at Oldham Labour Women's Group International Women's Day event at Oldham Library

14 Mar - Met with Clarksfield School pupils on their trip to Parliament

15 Mar - Led an Urgent Question on Personal Independence Payments in Parliament

 17 Mar - Met with Alzheimer's UK regarding devolution and Dementia in Oldham

17 Mar - Met with Oldham Council on fly-tipping

17 Mar - Met with constituents at my advice surgery in Oldham town centre

18 Mar  - Met with constituents at my advice surgery in Uppermill

18 Mar- Met with residents in Uppermill about Fletcher's Site and the draft Greater Manchester Spatial Framework

18 Mar - Attended Kingfisher Special School's fundraising ball

 23 Mar - Spoke for Labour on the Pensions Scheme Bill

24 Mar- Regular meeting with Oldham Council jointly with Angela Rayner MP and Jim McMahon MP

25 Mar - Met with the Peak District National Park Authority

24 Mar - Met with constituents in St Marys as part of my regular door knocking session with Cllr Shadab Qumer.

27 Mar- Led Work and Pension Questions for Labour

28 Mar- Applied for an emergency debate on PIP in the House of Commons

28 Mar- Spoke at the PCS Union lobby against Job Centre closures

29 Mar- Led emergency debate on PIP for Labour

30 Mar- Participated in Labour's Self Employment Summit hosted by the Federation of Small Businesses

31 Mar- Visit to Positive Steps with Andy Burnham MP to discuss work, training and skills

31 Mar- Regular First Choice Homes quarterly meeting

31 Mar- Met with constituents at my advice surgery in Oldham town centre
Focus on....

Do you know that Greater Manchester will elect it's first directly elected Mayor on Thurs 4th May? 

The Mayor of Greater Manchester will be a major figure in the political life of the region. For more information on the election and what the role will mean for all of us click here.
Debbie on the Parliamentary Website

To find out more about how I have represented Oldham East and Saddleworth in Parliament, you can read my contributions in debates and questions I have asked here on the parliamentary website.  
Be Fair - Pay on Time

To keep up to date on my Be Fair - Pay on Time campaign, read my campaign page here

To get up to the minute news and information between e-newsletters see my
Facebook page, follow me on Twitter or read my blog.

 
If you know anyone who would like to receive news about Oldham East and Saddleworth, they can sign up to my e-newsletter here.  Past editions my e-newsletter can be accessed here.
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