This week saw the election of Hilary Benn as the Chair of the Brexit Select Committee. This is welcome and excellent news in the bid to hold this Tory Government to account during the upcoming negotiations around our exit from the EU.
Research & Stakeholders
This week I chaired a meeting organised by the leader of the Labour MEPs Glenis Willmott, with stakeholders from the healthcare and research sectors, on the issue of how Brexit is affecting research, cancer charities, the NHS, and medicines. The charities present made it clear that free movement was vital for their ability to fund, research and deliver lifesaving treatment for some of the most debilitating illnesses affecting people in the UK today. The charities and patients associations emphasised the risk to patient care if a sensible and constructive approach was not taken on how to build a future relationship with the UK on free movement and collaborative research.
Tim Roach visit
GMB General Secretary Tim Roach addressed the Labour MEPs on the impact of Brexit on union members. He highlighted the fact that members generally voted to leave the EU, but highlighted how the Union's rights at work agenda was now under threat despite the government's promises. He warned that government promises that they will 'protect and improve' workers' rights meant that the government will improve rights for the employers, rather than workers. He asked us to remain vigilant in protecting workers rights as far as we can during these Article 50 negotiations.
EPLP meeting with PLP and Jeremy visit
A number of Labour MPs visited us this week including, our leader Jeremy Corbyn, the Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry, Shadow Minister for Exiting the European Union Keir Stammer, Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott, Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade Barry Gardiner, Chris Bryant, and Dame Rosie Winterton who is responsible for working with our European sister parties.
They attended various meetings over the week to better understand what is happening in the EU as we prepare to exit the European Union and as we prepare to set out our priorities and hold Theresa May’s government to account.
Sustainable Development Goals
This week I was pleased to attend an event highlighting the great progress made since the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs, one year ago. The Sustainable Development Goals were adopted with the aim of eliminating poverty by 2030. The 17 goals and 169 targets seek to build on the original Millennium Development Goals, adopted in 2000, and complete what they did not achieve. They seek to realize the human rights of all and to achieve gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls. One year later, we are in the critical phase of implementing and monitoring the SDGs. Building on the long-standing partnership between the United Nations and the European Union, this event in parliament included a range of speakers and a fascinating keynote speech from Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University. Speakers discussed how SDGs will stimulate action over the next 15 years in many critically important areas for humanity and the planet.
I also attended an event to mark EU Code Week 2016, hosted by Public Libraries 2020 and my colleague, Catherine Stihler MEP, showcasing the top innovative digital exhibits from public libraries across the EU. Catherine leads The MEP Library Group which brings together Members of the European Parliament from across the EU and from both sides of the political spectrum who are passionate about libraries. This interactive exhibition demonstrated how Europe’s public libraries are successfully meeting the digital age and consisted of several interactive stations. The event showcased the excellent work that public libraries are doing on all things digital from a range of member states - including coding, robotics, 3D printing, virtual reality experiences, tech advice workshops and digital making.
This week I submitted an amendment to a report currently before the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality, entitled: The need for an EU strategy to end and prevent the gender pension gap. The issue of the gender pension gap was recently raised by a constituent who is part of the WASPI campaign group. (Women against State Pension Inequality). The group fights the injustice done to women born in the 1950s, regarding the changes to their state pension age. Although WASPI agrees with pension equalisation, the changes were unfairly implemented, giving women little or no time to make alternative plans for a later retirement. As such, I decided to submit an amendment to the report calling on Member States to take extra care not to exacerbate the existing gender pension gap where equalising state pension age, in particular allowing women enough time to plan for retirement. I wish my constituents all the best with this campaign.