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I will not doff my hat to the PM for short-changing the North yet again

My latest editorial for the Telegraph & Argus, appearing in Wednesday 17th November's edition

Just over a week ago, I attended the House of Commons to ask the Leader of the House, Jacob Rees Mogg MP, to grant a debate with a focus on funding and access to NHS dentistry. However, before I could ask this, the Leader of the House dropped the bombshell that the Prime Minister was to make a U-turn on his plans for a Tory-dominated committee to rewrite the House of Commons rules on standards.

Only the day before, I witnessed Government whips corralling Tory MPs through the voting lobbies to prevent a former Conservative Minister from being suspended from Parliament for lobbying on behalf of two firms he was working for.

In the words of John Major, former Conservative Prime Minister, “I think the way the government handled that was shameful, wrong and unworthy of this or indeed any government. It also had the effect of trashing the reputation of parliament.”

Throughout this parliament, I have seen first-hand how this government has put the political considerations of their MPs and friends above the needs of the general population, non-more so than throughout their response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Whilst the Tories may want us to think that Tory sleaze is old news, it’s clearly still alive and kicking for us all to see. It’s disappointing to see the government of the day treating my constituents in Bradford South, and others across the country, with such contempt. Seemingly, it’s one rule for them and their mates and another for the rest of us.

In recent weeks, I was also disappointed by the government’s response to questions raised in my speech on the Budget. I again asked the Chancellor about his plans for Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) and connectivity to and across the North. I have raised this question many times in Westminster and elsewhere, maybe as many times as the government has made announcements on it, but it would be hard going to match their record as they have made at least 60 but with extraordinarily little substance.

In the avalanche of leaks from the Treasury, I was hoping to hear some positive messages on NPR but sadly nothing was forthcoming. I then hoped the Chancellor would pull something out of the hat on Budget Day. He did no such thing.

I know if the government had some positive news on NPR for Bradford, it would not be keeping it a secret. I am now hearing that the Integrated Rail Plan (IRP) is likely to be published tomorrow.

The integrated rail plan was supposed to be about presenting a blueprint of how Northern Powerhouse Rail, HS2 and Trans-Pennine upgrades - three separate but integrated schemes - would be delivered in parallel. Delivered in full, this could have provided up to 150,000 new jobs, halved journey times from Bradford to Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester and York, and boosted Bradford’s economy by £30 billion over ten years. Instead, it looks like we will get a failure to deliver NPR, a watered-down HS2 and money to deliver Trans-Pennine route upgrades that are needed anyway. This diluted version will not deliver the transformational change the North needs.

Lots of people right across the north voted Conservative for the first time at the last election, believing promises about levelling-up and investment in the North. Delivering NPR was one of the first things Mr Johnson promised on becoming PM.

I, for one, will not be doffing my cap and thanking him for short-changing Bradford and the North again – nor would my constituents forgive me if I took this easy course of action.

Returning to the rest of the Budget, alongside the Chancellor’s failure to promote economic growth in the North, he also failed to tackle the growing cost of living crisis and continued to place a massive tax burden on working people and businesses.

Sadly, it was an out-of-touch, high tax, low growth budget from an out-of-touch chancellor.

On a brighter note, the Menopause Bill, which I have been working on, moved another step closer to being enacted this month.

Currently, it costs women hundreds of pounds every year to access hormone replacement therapy. This legislation will see these costs drastically reduced and as the chair of the all-party parliamentary group on osteoporosis and bone health, this is something I wholeheartedly support.

Women need to be properly supported around the time of menopause and this includes assessing their risk of osteoporosis and fractures, being given appropriate advice and any medication and treatment that they may need.

I am proud to both break the silence on the silent disease of osteoporosis and to break the taboo on talking about menopause.


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