It’s been an intense period in Parliament over recent weeks with many of the big questions about Brexit still being thrashed out and every vote on the detail, coming down to tight numbers.
In the midst of all that, I’ve been working on two long-running campaigns which have seen some progress this month.
Readers will be aware that the courts in Halifax were closed around 20 months ago, leading to the end of over 140 years of justice provision in the town.
Since the court closures, the police, the council, social workers, schools, victims and witnesses are all reporting that access to justice has fallen through the floor, with court dates for domestic violence cases taking up to a year to be heard and cases being heard as far away as Leeds, 20 miles away, rather than Bradford 10 miles away, as had been promised.
When the Government closed the courts, we were promised video links established in their absence which would enable evidence to be given remotely to a courtroom. However, no such investment has yet been delivered.
I secured a debate in the House of Commons to go through the impact of the court closures in detail and I am pleased to say the Minister listened and promised to introduce video links within three months. This will not address all of the problems created by the court closures, but it is good start.
I have also written to every young person between the ages of 18 and 25 in Halifax to ask for their experiences in the workplace, as my private members bill on extending the Government’s so-called Living Wage to under 25s was debated in the chamber.
At present the Government’s higher minimum wage, known as the ‘National Living Wage’, is available only to those over the age of 25. It’s a strange cut off point which means that young people could be aged 23, having been in a job since 18, and still be paid less than a newly hired older colleague.
Thank you to all those young people in Halifax who have written to me detailing their experiences. Your stories helped me make the case to the Government about the unfairness in these wages.
When costs such as rent, food and bills are the same, regardless of how old you are, it cannot be right to pay someone less, simply because of their age. Unfortunately, the bill failed to pass on this occasion but is scheduled for further debate in the autumn.
Finally the date on which Parliament will rise for the summer has been the subject of much debate this week. Often described as a ‘holiday’ for MPs, I want to reassure constituents that the only difference is that Westminster doesn’t sit, which means that my team and I will be busy in Halifax meeting with constituents and taking part in all sorts of visits and activities right across our town, rather than having to be in London.