Leigh Observer column - 10th October 2017

Well, what a week it has been.

It has been another extraordinary few days in politics. I suspect most people are getting a little tired of it all by now – indeed at times it has felt as though there has been no escape from it – but what I will say is that, lost in all the noise of last week, some very important government announcements were made that people may have missed.

First of all, Michael Gove announced a ban on the sale of ivory in the United Kingdom. This puts our country at the forefront of global efforts to protect the dwindling population of elephants and combat poaching. We’re also banning microbeads, increasing sentences for those convicted of cruelty to animals, as well as making sure that abattoirs have CCTV. As the RSPCA said, it has been a fortnight of incredible news for animal welfare and I’m pleased that it is a Conservative government that is leading these changes.

As well as the ban on ivory, the government has also launched a consultation on plans to bring back a reward and return scheme for bottles. Plans for a plastic bottle deposit scheme will help tackle the rise in plastic we see entering our waters and increase recycling rates. I’ll be following the consultation closely.

We are also introducing a new apprenticeship route into nursing for those who want to earn and learn on the job. There will also be a review into university funding and student financing - including increasing the amount graduates can earn before they start repaying their fees to £25,000. This hasn’t had much airing in the news, which instead has focussed on fees being frozen, but this announcement will save many lower and middle earning graduates thousands of pounds. Many students won’t clear their debts in full before they are wiped – meaning that not only will what you pay each year be reduced, students will also see a reduction in what they pay in total as well.

Despite all the noise and newspaper headlines, this government, led by Prime Minister Theresa May, is getting on with the job at hand.

Conference recess is now over and I’m heading back down to Westminster today, where I have a busy week ahead.

I’m due to be officially appointed to the Work and Pensions Select Committee, to which I was elected by fellow MPs just before recess. We have important work ahead, not least an investigation into the roll out of Universal Credit, a new benefit that is meant to make claiming easier for people whilst also improving incentives to work. There has been fears that Universal Credit, which merges six existing payments into one, will lead to a delay in waiting times for those claiming. If any residents in Atherton have comments on the Universal Credit rollout, I would be interested to hear them – please do get in touch.

The Prime Minister is also due to make a statement to the House of Commons on the progress of the Brexit negotiations.

When it comes down to it, this is the sort of stuff that ordinary people care about – not gossip and endless rhetoric.

And lastly, as this week is Libraries Week, I couldn’t finish without praising the fantastic work of our librarians and other staff at Atherton Library. Every time I visit, I am amazed at what a fantastic resource we have for our community.

The wonderful Atherton Library Support Group also do incredible work for our community and meet at the library often. As well as campaigning to support the library, they also donate thousands of pounds to our community.

If you haven’t been for a while, please do use Libraries Week as an excuse to pop down and support this vital resource.